Does Light Therapy Really Help Gum Disease?

Of all the irritating, painful health conditions that come with adulthood, gum disease might be one of the worst. Nearly half of U.S. adults age 30 or older have gum disease in one form or another.

Early stage gum disease often has few symptoms, but once it progresses, finding relief can feel hopeless. Unpleasant symptoms like tender gums, sensitive teeth, or embarrassing bad breath just won’t seem to go away.

But rest assured, you’re not stuck with these symptoms forever — and treatments like blue light therapy for gum disease can help.

What Is Gum Disease?

Before discussing the effectiveness of blue light therapy for gum disease, let’s take a closer look at the medical condition itself.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, often starts with your oral health routine. A faulty brushing technique, inadequate toothbrush, or poor flossing habits lead to a buildup of plaque, a bacteria-filled residue on your teeth that starts out sticky and then hardens. It only takes a maximum of three days for plaque to harden into tartar along your gum line, which is much more difficult to remove and requires those scraping tools at the dentist’s office everyone loves so much.

Gum disease progresses along a spectrum, from mild to severe. Gingivitis is the name given to early gum disease, while advanced gum disease is called periodontitis.

This progression happens as plaque and tartar build over time, adding more and more bacteria to your mouth and gumline. While you have a natural ecosystem of bacteria living in your mouth, plaque and tartar harbor harmful bacteria that infect and break down your gums and — if left untreated — even your bone.

As periodontal disease progresses, your gums become:

  • Red
  • Tender
  • Swollen
  • Prone to bleeding

Your gum line also recedes, shrinking away from your teeth. Your teeth become sensitive and possibly loosen as the gums continue to pull away. Brushing your teeth, flossing, chewing, and even talking can be difficult and painful.

To add insult to injury, the bacteria in your mouth cause bad breath that no amount of brushing or minty gum can cure.

Now that you know more about the causes and symptoms, let’s talk about blue light therapy for gum disease.

What Is Blue Light Therapy?

To consider blue light therapy for gum disease, it’s important to understand how blue light therapy works.

Blue light therapy has surprisingly powerful antimicrobial qualities, which is one of the reasons it has become a popular component of light therapy treatments for acne breakouts. Blue light penetrates the surface of the skin, attacking and destroying acne-causing bacteria. With the bacteria destroyed, the skin can heal from the current breakout, and a new breakout becomes far less likely.

Blue light therapy may also be effective at treating specific types of hair loss, as well as an option for other health conditions like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and fatigue. It’s the antimicrobial qualities of blue light, however, that indicate it as a possible method to attack and destroy the bacteria that cause gum disease.

The Verdict According to Science

Clinicians agree that targeting the bacteria that lead to gum disease and other issues in the mouth is a viable treatment option, and medical professionals recognize light therapy as a way to kill bacteria and other pathogens. But bacteria that resides in your mouth is tougher to kill than bacteria that lives on your skin, and that’s partly why we need more research.

According to existing studies, blue light applied to a patient’s gums in a clinical setting appears to reduce inflammation and kill some of the harmful bacteria. This is a potentially huge breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of multiple mouth conditions caused by bacteria. But, as with nearly all other areas of light therapy research, scientists and clinicians have not yet reached a definitive conclusion on the subject.

Researchers have continued to study blue light as a treatment for gum disease, and they keep making progress.

Infographic: Does Light Therapy Really Help Gum Disease?

When to See a Doctor

Oral hygiene is an important part of your overall health and wellness, and failing to properly care for your teeth and gums can have devastating results.

This is why prevention is so important when it comes to oral health. In addition to brushing twice a day and flossing daily, be sure to visit your dentist twice a year for regular teeth cleanings and X-rays. During your dental checkup, the dentist or dental hygienist should catch early warning signs of gum disease and advise you on next steps to prevent progression.

If you’re between appointments — or if you’ve missed a few — you may notice more serious symptoms. If you’re already noticing the following signs of gum disease, it may be time to see a periodontist, a medical doctor who treats oral health conditions:

  • Blood in your mouth from brushing or flossing
  • Bleeding gums any other time
  • Unusually red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Tender or painful gums
  • Gum recession
  • Tooth pain
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Chronic bad breath

Some people are at higher risk than others for developing gum disease. Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking oral birth control pills
  • Taking a medication that causes dry mouth
  • Diabetes
  • Compromised immune system
  • Old filling that needs replacing
  • Ill-fitting dental bridge

Men are more likely to develop gum disease than women, and everyone’s risk increases with age. Genetics and stress can also play a role.

Conclusion: Blue Light Therapy for Gum Disease

Blue light therapy for gum disease may be an appropriate treatment or preventative option for some people, especially if you’re at higher risk for this condition. More research is needed before the scientific community can reach any conclusions around this treatment’s effectiveness, but since blue light therapy has few, if any, adverse side effects, it may be worth trying.

If you decide to give blue light therapy for gum disease a try, speak with your dentist. Treatments may be available in a clinical setting, or you may opt for a portable light therapy device you can use in the privacy of your home.

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