Oral health is extremely important for overall wellbeing. Poor dental health can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and even cardiovascular disease. With rising rates of these conditions worldwide, there is increasing interest in natural remedies that can improve oral health without side effects. One emerging therapy that shows promise is red light therapy.
What is Red Light Therapy?
Red light therapy involves exposing the body to low-level red and near-infrared light. This light is produced by LED devices or lasers in specific wavelengths ranging from 600-1000 nanometers.
Red light is thought to provide the following benefits:
- Increases blood flow and circulation
- Reduces inflammation
- Stimulates collagen production
- Promotes tissue healing and regeneration
- Reduces pain
Red light therapy has been shown effective for wound healing, joint pain, and skin conditions. But emerging research now also points to its potential for improving oral health.
Red Light Therapy for Oral Health
Both human and animal studies reveal promising effects of red light therapy on various aspects of oral health, including:
Tooth Growth and Development
Red light therapy may aid tooth growth and development in children. In one study, shine a red light on rat teeth increased growth rate, dentin formation, and enamel thickness compared to controls. Researchers believe the light stimulates cells called odontoblasts that form dentin.
Tooth Movement from Orthodontics
Fixed orthodontic appliances like braces put pressure on teeth to gradually shift their position over time. Research finds using red light therapy on the jaw area can accelerate orthodontic tooth movement. The light likely works by enhancing bone remodeling in the jaws.
Red light therapy may help reduce sensitivity in teeth. One study had patients use a red light device for 5 minutes daily for 2 weeks. The results showed significant declines in tooth sensitivity to air, cold water, sweet foods, and sour foods.
Using red light after whitening treatments may intensify and prolong results. In one study, patients underwent in-office whitening then used red light therapy gels and devices afterwards. The red light therapy group had substantially whiter teeth compared to the control group.
Oral mucositis is a common side effect of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It involves painful inflammation and ulcers in the mouth. Research finds red light therapy can prevent and heal mucositis lesions. It also reduces inflammation and discomfort.
Oral herpes causes recurrent lesions and blisters around the mouth. Studies indicate red light therapy promotes healing of herpetic lesions. It also reduces symptoms like pain and dryness. Red light appears to have antiviral effects against the herpes virus.
Red light therapy shows potential for treating cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus. Using red light on cold sores accelerates healing time and reduces pain compared to no treatment.
TMJ disorders affect the temporomandibular joint connecting the jaw to the skull. Red light therapy may relieve pain and improve range of motion. One study found it decreased pain and discomfort by about 70% in patients with TMJ problems.
Denture stomatitis involves inflammation and redness under dentures. Research indicates using a red light device on the affected tissue significantly improves this inflammation long-term.
Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease affecting the tissues around teeth. Some research shows red light therapy reduces gum bleeding and periodontal pocket depth in people with periodontitis. However, more studies are needed.
How Does Red Light Therapy Benefit Teeth?
While more research is still needed, current evidence points to the following beneficial mechanisms of red light therapy for oral health:
- Increases Blood Flow – Red light boosts circulation and blood flow in the gums and other oral tissues.
- Reduces Inflammation – The light has anti-inflammatory effects that reduce cytokine levels and other inflammatory markers.
- Stimulates Cell Growth – Red light stimulates the proliferation of gingival fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and osteoblasts involved in healing.
- Increases Collagen – It promotes collagen synthesis from fibroblasts, strengthening connective tissues.
- Accelerates Wound Healing – By increasing growth factors, red light therapy promotes faster healing of sores, cuts, and lesions.
- Improves Circulation – It boosts microcirculation in the gums and pulp of the tooth.
Through these mechanisms, red light therapy appears beneficial for protecting against gum disease, speeding orthodontics, whitening teeth, and healing mouth sores. More human trials are still needed to confirm effects.
Using Red Light Therapy for Teeth at Home
There are various red light therapy devices available for home use on teeth and gums:
Handheld, wand-like devices enable targeted light therapy on specific areas in the mouth. Wands have precision tips that can be placed against teeth, gums, sores, and more. Most provide both red and near-infrared light.
Oral Care Devices
Some oral care devices like toothbrushes now incorporate red light therapy. These provide general light exposure throughout the mouth during brushing sessions.
Custom-fit mouthpieces produced by dentists contain red LEDs. These enable hands-free light therapy on all surfaces inside the mouth at once.
Larger near-infrared or full spectrum light panels can be positioned in front of the face to indirectly expose the mouth area.
Most devices are FDA-cleared and safe when used as directed. Optimal treatment times and frequencies are still being established, but many sources recommend the following protocol:
- 2-3 minutes per area treated
- 2-3 times per week
- Continued use for 6-12 weeks
Talk to your dentist before trying red light therapy at home to ensure proper protocols.
Red Light Therapy for Teeth: The Future
Research into red light therapy for oral health shows promising results so far. However, high-quality clinical trials are still needed to validate effects and establish optimal treatment protocols. Here is an overview of the current state of the research and what future studies may reveal:
Current Research Status
- Mostly small human trials and animal studies so far
- Limited to testing certain oral conditions in isolation
- Varied treatment parameters between trials
- Needs replication in larger randomized controlled trials
Future Areas to Explore
- Effects for preventing cavities and gum disease
- Optimal light wavelengths, fluence, and timing
- Effects on root canals, dental implants, and other dental procedures
- Effects on oral microbiome
- Combination with other treatments like ozone therapy
- Cost-benefit analysis for dental offices
With continuing research, red light therapy could become an established part of dental treatment plans in the future. It may be used to enhance dental procedures, reduce infection risks, improve healing, and prevent oral disease.
Is Red Light Therapy Safe for Teeth?
Red light therapy appears very safe for teeth and gums when proper protocols are followed. The FDA considers LEDs and lasers used for red light therapy as non-significant risk devices. Red light is gentle, non-invasive, and unlikely to damage oral tissues.
However, potential side effects can include:
- Tooth sensitivity when heat from light accumulates
- Gum or lip irritation from high energy fluence
- Ulceration if therapy is overused
- Allergic reaction in those with LED/laser allergies
Proper use guidelines should be followed to avoid exceeding thermal thresholds or irritating tissues. Consult your dentist before use if you have any concerns.
Early research indicates red light therapy may provide significant oral health benefits. From reducing gum disease to improving dental procedures, red light shows potential as an easy, safe, and natural therapeutic option. More rigorous clinical trials are still needed to confirm effects. But current evidence demonstrates promise for integrating red light therapy into preventive dentistry and dental treatment plans.
With further research, red light therapy could revolutionize home dental care and clinical dental practice. It may become a standard recommendation from dentists for enhancing oral health every day. But patients should consult their dentists before beginning any new light therapy regimen.