Red Light Therapy for Gum Disease

Red light therapy is a new, effective treatment for gum disease. It is non-invasive and does not rely on medicine, which is why it is quickly becoming the go-to for many older adults who want to optimize their oral health. Research shows that red light therapy can, among others, help reduce inflammation, promote tissue repair, and combat bacteria associated with periodontal issues.

 

In this article, we look at the science behind this therapeutic approach and how its application can benefit gum disease as well as overall oral health & wellness.

Understanding Red Light Therapy And Gum Disease

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves using low-level wavelengths of red light to promote healing and reduce inflammation. It's used for various conditions, including skin issues, pain relief, and even oral health problems like gum disease. Read more about it in our blog “What is red light therapy?”.

 

Red light therapy works by stimulating the mitochondria in cells to produce more cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This increase in ATP production can lead to several benefits, such as pain relief, repair of degenerative changes and improved blood circulation. Read all about how red light therapy works here.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene that leads to a buildup of plaque on teeth. When plaque isn't removed through proper brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, leading to irritation along the gumline. This irritation triggers an inflammatory response from the body's immune system, causing damage to both gums and the bones supporting the teeth.

 

Other factors contributing to gum disease include smoking or tobacco use, hormonal changes (such as those occurring during pregnancy), certain medications affecting oral health, genetic predisposition, and underlying health conditions like diabetes.

 

Common symptoms of gum disease include

Swollen, tender or receding gums

Persistent bad breath

Loose or shifting teeth

Changes in bite alignment

Pus between teeth and gums

Bleeding while brushing or flossing

Living with gum disease requires consistent dental care practices such as regular brushing using fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily along with daily flossing

Benefits Of Red Light Therapy For Gum Disease

By increasing cellular activity, red light therapy stimulates multiple biological processes that accelerate the healing of gum disease.

Improve Mitochondrial Functioning

Similar to how our body can use sunlight to produce Vitamin D, it is able to absorb the energy of red light photons to produce cellular energy, also called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This boost in ATP helps cells function more efficiently and repair damage more effectively.

 

Through this process, red light therapy restores normal mitochondrial functioning and restores oxidative stress. As a result, it can support tissue repair, reduce pain, and enhance recovery after injury or exercise.

"The study demonstrated an immediate increase in ATP production in vitro and an initial acceleration of callus formation in the fracture healing process, in the presence of NIR." [Quirk BJ, Sannagowdara K, et al.]

What does this mean? Tissue regeneration helps gums recover faster from damage caused by gum disease. This means swollen, tender, or receding gums heal faster.

Reduction Of Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury or irritation, and it often involves the release of chemicals that can cause pain. Inflamed tissues can also restrict movement, cause stiffness and compress surrounding nerves leading to further discomfort.

 

Red light therapy has been found to activate anti-inflammatory responses in the body, which helps reduce pain and inflammation. It works by inhibiting the inflammatory signaling pathway. 

 

This means that red light therapy can help decrease an excessive and uncontrolled inflammatory response in the body such as swelling. This is especially beneficial for older adults who may experience chronic inflammation.

"Laser therapy is a non-invasive method that contributes to pain relief and reduces inflammation, parallel to the enhanced healing and tissue repair processes." [Dompe C, Moncrieff L, et al.]

 

"A single application of LLLT produced significant reductions in inflammatory cell infiltration and inflammatory cytokines" [Hamblin MR]

What does this mean? In gum disease, inflammation is causing damage to both gums and the bones. Reducing inflammation stops the disease and helps the gums heal. Less inflammation also means less pain in your gums.

Repair Of Degenerative Changes

Scientific studies also show that red light therapy supports the repair of degenerative changes in tendons, cartilage, and bones. This is achieved by 2 mechanisms:

Enhancing cell proliferation that activates signaling pathways to up-regulate growth factors.

Increasing the production of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSC).

"These low doses of light have demonstrated the ability to heal skin, nerves, tendons, cartilage and bones." [Cotler HB, Chow RT, Hamblin MR, Carroll J.]

 

“LLLT can enhance the viability and proliferation rate of healthy and especially osteoporotic autologous BMMSCs” [Fallahnezhad S, Piryaei A, Tabeie F, Nazarian H, Darbandi H, Amini A, Mostafavinia A, Ghorishi SK, Jalalifirouzkouhi A]

What does this mean? Loose or shifting teeth and changes in bite alignment are common symptoms. By repairing degenerative changes in oral structures, red light therapy can prevent tooth loss and other severe complications.

Pain Relief

Red light therapy can help alleviate pain by modulating pain-signaling pathways in the body through the release of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, such as endogenous opioids and serotonin. These substances help to inhibit pain transmission and modulate pain perception.

 

Additionally, better microcirculation promoting the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and the warmth of the red light relaxes the muscles. Thus, red light therapy offers a non-invasive and drug-free method to manage and reduce pain for older adults.

“In addition to the demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, LLLT may have benefits provided by its ability to act on nerves by reducing pain transmission and activating endogenous opioid receptors” [Hamblin MR]

What does this mean? Poor oral hygiene is the primary cause for gum disease, and pain only adds to this problem. By reducing pain and discomfort, patients can practice better oral hygiene and prevent the disease from getting worse.

Increased Blood Flow

Another significant benefit of red light therapy is its ability to improve blood circulation. The light energy stimulates the formation of new capillaries, enhancing blood flow to injured areas. This increased circulation delivers vital oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells necessary for efficient healing. By allowing for better delivery of essential resources, new capillaries expedite the healing process.

 

Improved blood flow also aids in removing waste products and toxins from affected areas, and creates an optimal environment for tissue repair and regeneration. Thus, further supporting the body's natural healing mechanisms.

"A significant increase in blood flow was noted in the treated group" [Frangez I, Cankar K, et al.]

 

"The results indicated that LLLT accelerated collateral circulation and enhanced microcirculation" [Ihsan FR]

What does this mean? Better microcirculation means gums have more of the essential nutrients they need to recover. This means gums will heal faster, and bleed less.

Review Of The Science

Blue and red light therapy for gum disease,  often referred to as antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (aPDT), has been studied in plenty of clinical trials and scientific studies. The science is clear that regular and consistent use of red light therapy can support the healing of gum disease.

Study

Link

Findings

Periodontal disease

a-PDT using red or blue LED light could be effective in attenuating bacteria associated with periodontal diseases. LEDs have the potential to provide a new direction for light therapy in periodontics.

Dentistry

There are several clinical studies reporting aPDT as an effective adjunctive treatment modality capable of reducing pathogenic bacterial loads in periodontal and peri-implant, and persistent endodontic infections.

Periodontal disease

Photodynamic killing of periodontopathogenic bacteria [...] by visible light enables effective killing of periodontopathogens. Encouraging studies using PDT in periodontitis and in peri-implantitis are known.

Periodontal and peri-implant diseases

The present review showed that use of PDT may help improve periodontal outcomes. Therefore, it could become a new method for antibacterial treatment and may be used as an adjunct to or as conventional therapy for the treatment of periodontal and peri-implant diseases.

Dentinal hypersensitivity and pain following periodontal flap surgery

Postoperative Dentinal Hypersensitivity and pain following periodontal surgery can be reduced by using low-level laser therapy.

Oral inflammatory diseases

Increasing evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a critical role in the development and progression of OIDs (Oral Inflammatory Diseases) and its associated systemic diseases. In this review, we elucidated the critical insights into mitochondrial dysfunction and its involvement in the inflammatory responses in OIDs.

Periodontitis

The results showed that the technique of photodynamic therapy may be a promising alternative to conventional antimicrobial approaches for reducing bacteria closely associated with periodontal disease.

Tissue regeneration

Laser biomodulation therapy accelerates soft tissue regeneration and bone formation.

Periodontal disease

Repeated aPDT treatment at home can improve oral hygiene and the results of periodontal treatment.

Red Light Therapy Versus Traditional Methods

As discussed above, red light therapy is a fantastic non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical treatment option for gum disease. Unlike surgery and other treatment options, it offers a safe and easy-to-use alternative that can alleviate pain and discomfort from home.

Type

Effectiveness

Pros

Cons

Scaling

Effective

Better oral health, no downtime

Expensive, dental visit required, discomfort

Surgery

Effective

Long-term stability

Downtime for recovery, expensive

Red Light Therapy

Effective

Better oral health, no downtime, safe, convenient

Takes 3-4 weeks

Recommended Treatment Protocol For Oral Health

To receive the maximum benefits of red light therapy for pain management, it is recommended to follow these treatment protocols:

Follow a consistent treatment schedule: Red light therapy works best when used consistently over a period of 3-4 weeks. Aim for daily treatments with a duration of 3-8 minutes or as advised by your healthcare provider.

Positioning: To be effective for pain management, the light source should be as close to the gums and teeth as possible for deep tissue penetration.

Combination therapy: Use a device that combines both blue and red light for synergistic effects of the healing properties of red light and the antibacterial effects of blue light.

Be patient and persistent: Red light therapy takes time to show its effects, so it's important to be patient and persistent with your treatments. Results may vary depending on individual factors and overall health condition.

Holistic treatment: For best results, combine red light therapy with traditional dental care practices such as regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings by a dentist.

Side Effects & Risks

Red light therapy is considered safe to use, especially for older adults. It has virtually no risks or serious side effects.

 

Some people with light or skin sensitivities may experience mild side effects like skin irritation. These side effects are typically mild and temporary and should subside within a few hours of treatment.

 

To ensure the safety and effectiveness of red light therapy, it is crucial to choose FDA-approved devices. FDA approval indicates that the device has undergone rigorous testing and meets certain standards for safety and performance.

Conclusion

For patients with gum disease, red light therapy can be a beneficial adjunct to traditional treatments such as scaling and root planning. The healing light can help manage symptoms, repair damaged gums and bones, and reduce discomfort associated with gum disease.

 

Its non-invasive nature and minimal side effects make it an attractive option for patients seeking alternative or complementary interventions. 

 

Red light therapy is also utilized for post-operative care following dental surgeries involving the gums or oral tissues. The therapy can help accelerate healing after these procedures by reducing inflammation and promoting tissue repair.

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References