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Red Light Therapy For Teeth & Gums: Your Key To Better Oral Health?

Last Reviewed on February 1, 2024

Unlock the benefits of red light therapy for your teeth and gums. Learn how it can promote healing, treat gum diseases, and enhance your smile.

Have you ever wondered if shining a red light on your pearly whites could do more than just brighten your smile?

Well, it can.

Red light therapy isn’t a new concept in dental offices. It’s been used by professionals in fields like cosmetic dentistry, periodontics, and more. It’s the new high-tech companion to your toothbrush!

We all want that dazzling smile, right? But, oral health is much more than aesthetics. It’s a crucial part of our overall well-being. And, red light therapy is making waves with its potential benefits in oral care.

Curious to learn how red light therapy could be the next big thing for your smile? Then, get reading!

Red Light Therapy Benefits For Teeth & Gums

Oral health is key to a great life and smile. Dentists are now using red light therapy for healthier teeth and gums, tackling everything from tooth sensitivity to receding gums. The good news? It’s actually backed by science!

Promotes Healing

Ever burnt your tongue on hot pizza or brushed your teeth a bit too hard? Ouch, right? Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our mouths take a hit. Even a simple accident can leave our teeth and gums needing some TLC (“tender loving care”).

Fortunately, red light therapy can help you heal faster after these incidents. In 2022, scientists found 660 nm red light to provide complete pain relief in patients with dentinal hypersensitivity (DH) in just 6 months [1].

Dentinal hypersensitivity (DH) is a painful condition that occurs when the inner (dentin) layer of the tooth gets exposed, resulting in sensitive teeth. This is most noticeable when drinking hot or cold beverages.

It even works for those painful tooth extractions!

A 2019 study found that low-level laser therapy (940 nm) aided significantly in the healing process after a tooth extraction [2]. We’re talking about faster tissue repair and even bone regeneration.

Plus, red light therapy is known to boost collagen production. Collagen plays an important role in your teeth and gums and can help speed up gum healing [3]. You’ll be back to biting in no time!

Treats Gum Diseases

According to the CDC, nearly half of all adults over 30 are fighting some form of gum disease [4]. That’s a lot of us looking for relief!

Thankfully, red light therapy is a game-changer in treating a variety of gum diseases.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis, that sneaky gum disease from plaque buildup, doesn’t stand a chance when traditional treatments are combined with red light therapy.

It’s the dynamic duo of modern day dentistry!

Scientists found that, while traditional treatments were effective for treating children with chronic gingivitis, the best results came from combining them with low-level laser therapy (LLLT) [5].

What’s more, a 2011 study tested the effectiveness of using a red light emitted toothbrush (R-LETB) for treating gingivitis. When combined with a 0.1%-methylene blue (MB) solution, red LED light therapy (663 nm) resulted in a more significant improvement in gingival bleeding and inflammation vs. the control group that used a normal toothbrush [6].

One thought here is that red light can help boost blood circulation [7]. This isn’t just a quick fix; it’s like calling in the body’s own cleanup crew.

More blood flow means more immune cells rushing in to fight off infection and reduce inflammation. The result? Quick relief and healthier gums.

Close-up of inflamed gums and teeth in mouth

Periodontitis

Now, periodontal disease is a bit more serious. If gingivitis is like a small hole in a boat, periodontitis is when the water’s really starting to flood in. Bad breath, bleeding gums – it’s not fun. Left alone, you’re talking about tooth loss.

Stages of gum disease periodontitis illustration

There is hope, however. A 2018 study found that combining scaling and root planing (SRP), a common periodontitis treatment, with near-infrared (810 nm), blue light (405 nm), and red light (635 nm) yields some pretty impressive results. At the 1-year mark, the areas that received the laser and LED treatment reported better outcomes than those that just received SRP [8].

Another split-mouth study took a closer look at red light therapy’s impact on chronic periodontitis over time. Patients were checked at 1, 3, 6, and 9 months after treatment. The findings? The areas that received LLLT showed improved oral health at each of these check-ins compared to those that didn’t [9].

Main Takeaway: For the best results, combine traditional dental procedures like scaling and root planing with red light therapy.

Denture Stomatitis

For those with dentures, battling denture stomatitis can be a real struggle. However, there’s some promising news.

One case study looked at the impact of LLLT on two patients with denture stomatitis. After being treated with multiple red light therapy wavelengths (685 and 830 nm), both saw a significant reduction in the growth of Candida albicans, the pesky yeast often responsible for this inflammation. Even better, they also experienced less palatal inflammation [10].

Relieves Pain

If you’ve ever braved a dental chair for a filling, braces, root canal, or gum grafting, you know the drill (pun intended) – pain and discomfort are usually part of the process.

Take orthodontic pain, for instance. A meta-analysis of 14 clinical trials showed that red light therapy helped reduce discomfort for those with braces by 39% [11]. It’s even been shown to speed up orthodontic tooth movement [12] – so you (or your child) can get rid of those annoying braces faster!

Teeth sensitivity is another pain point, especially after bleaching. A study found that patients who received near-infrared light therapy (810 nm) experienced major pain relief just 24 hours after treatment. Red light therapy (660 nm) took a bit longer to work, with patients reporting pain relief 48 hours after treatment [13]. This shows promising results for tooth sensitivity.

Red light therapy treatment has also been proven effective for reducing pain in burning mouth syndrome (BMS). A meta-analysis of 10 clinical studies found that patients suffering from BMS felt significant pain relief after treatment, using wavelengths between 630-980 nm [14].

Lastly, root canals… which are possibly one of the most uncomfortable dental procedures. The good news is that red light therapy can help make the aftercare more manageable. In a 2017 study, patients reported a significant drop in tooth pain for the first 4 days after root canal treatment. These patients also needed fewer painkillers than those in the control group [15].

Woman examining teeth in mirror, concerned expression

How Does Red Light Therapy Work?

We all know that brushing and flossing are key, but they don’t (always) get the whole job done. That’s where red light therapy steps in, offering extra help in areas like teeth whitening, gum disease prevention, inflammation relief, and combating bacteria that cause bad breath.

The science behind it is pretty straightforward. Red light therapy, also referred to as photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy, works by exposing the body to specific wavelengths of red and infrared light.

The light is absorbed by the mitochondria in your cells, leading to increased energy production in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This process can stimulate cellular repair, reduce inflammation, and enhance blood circulation. 

What does all this mean for you?

It means faster and more efficient regeneration of soft tissue. This is especially important for the dentin layer of your teeth and receding gums.

And, about mouth bacteria and dental plaque… red light therapy treatment is effective in getting rid of them. It has been shown to slow down the growth of Streptococcus mutans and Candida albicans [16] – the culprits behind decaying teeth and other poor oral health issues.

Dental plaque biofilm on teeth comparison

This makes red light therapy a valuable addition to your oral hygiene, going beyond what your toothbrush can do and keeping your gums and teeth healthier.

How To Use Red Light Therapy For Oral Health

Thinking about adding red light therapy to your oral care routine? It’s a smart move, but remember that this therapy should complement your regular dental care, not replace it. Also, be sure to chat with a dental professional first – they know your teeth best.

1. Choose A Quality Red Light Therapy Device

First, get yourself a quality red light therapy device that’s designed for the teeth and gums. These devices are no longer only found in clinics, and there are some great at-home ones available.

Look for a device that can be inserted into the mouth, like a toothbrush. This ensures the light can penetrate the gums, enamel, and bone. External devices likely won’t completely penetrate the cheek tissue, meaning limited benefits for the teeth and gums.

2. Follow A Regular Schedule

Every device and situation is different, so stick to the recommendations for treatment duration and frequency. Typically, dental professionals or the device instructions will guide you. Depending on the device used, sessions can range anywhere from twice daily for a couple minutes, e.g. LED toothbrushes, to several times a week for a couple seconds, e.g. low-level lasers.

Just like everything else, you need to be consistent to see results. Regular, consistent use of red light therapy is how you’ll end up seeing real results. So, set a schedule and stick to it.

3. Track Your Progress

Keep an eye on how things are going. Your dentist can help track changes and tweak your plan if needed. Seeing the change in your gum health can be super motivating, too!

4. Maintain Good Oral Health

Of course, you can’t slack on the basics – brushing and flossing. If you wear braces, a water flosser like Waterpik can be a big help.

Regular dental cleanings are a must too. Think of red light therapy as that extra boost: it works best when all the basics are handled.

Couple brushing teeth with electric toothbrushes in bathroom

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about red light and oral health.

Can Red Light Therapy Regrow Gums?

Yes, RLT can help regrow gum tissue. Studies point out that red wavelengths of light can increase the proliferation of periodontal ligament stem cells (PDLSCs) and encourage these cells to turn into bone-like cells [17]. This is crucial for repairing and strengthening the parts of your gums that support your teeth.

Periodontal ligament stem cells (PDLSCs) are special because they can turn into different types of cells and play a key role in maintaining and repairing the tissues that hold your teeth in place.

Can You Use Red Light Therapy On Teeth?

Absolutely. Red light therapy is not just for skin care; it’s also effective for various dental treatments, including periodontal and endodontic, and treating oral ulcers.

Can Red Light Therapy Help Whiten Teeth?

The short answer: we’re not sure. There’s limited direct evidence to support red light therapy’s effectiveness for teeth whitening.

That said, research has shown oral light therapy to play an important role. A 2023 study found 440 nm blue light and 1700 nm infrared light to speed up the whitening process [18].

So, if this is something you want to test yourself, I’d recommend combining it with blue light therapy and a peroxide-containing whitening gel or strip. There’s anecdotal reports of this combination treatment making people’s teeth noticeably whiter after a few treatments.

Woman receiving teeth whitening treatment with LED light

Final Thoughts

Red light therapy is not just about a brighter smile; it’s about healthier teeth and gums. From tackling gum diseases to easing dental pain and even speeding up healing, red and near-infrared light packs some real benefits.

It’s simple to use and a great addition to your oral care routine. Just remember, it’s not a replacement for regular dental care.

So, why not give it a try? Chat with a dental professional, and, while you’re at it, learn more about the other ways red light therapy can benefit you.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9784673/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32239104/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491628/ 
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/fast-facts/gum-disease/index.html
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19024121/
  6. https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/abs/10.1142/S1793545811001745
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1011134421000919
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29349511/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31613945/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15954824/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25800534/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32273964/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26964798/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27919663/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28967495/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22189647/ 
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29528486/ 
  18. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1612-202X/acb3c9/meta
Anne, Founder of Therapeutic Beams

Anne Linde

Since using it to clear up her acne in college, Anne has been an avid user and fan of all things light therapy. She now primarily uses red light therapy for its anti-aging benefits. Anne's mission is to make the science behind red light therapy easy to understand and accessible, so anyone can use it to take control of their health and wellbeing.

John Ni, BSc.

John, a graduate of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, serves as a respected scientific reviewer at TherapeuticBeams.com. His expertise extends across various domains, including chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and dermatology. He contributes to publications like Royal Society of Chemistry, Drug Topics, and Practical Dermatology.

John Ni, Content Editor & Scientific Review

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