While performing tooth-whitening procedures on his patients that utilize a special halogen light with peroxide, dentist Max Goodson, noticed something surprising: Patients' gums seemed to appear healthier looking. He realized this improvement lasted several months after a patient's tooth-whitening procedure, so he hypothesized it had to do with the bacteria that causes irritation around the gum tissue
After running some experiments along with dentist Nikos Soukos, Goodson found the bacteria are indeed sensitive to light. The dentists found they could reduce the bacteria that are most sensitive by shining lights into the oral cavity. By using this idea in a more advanced form, the dentists hope to actually control oral disease. There are no toxic agents that are administered with the light as far as doctors know, so patients should not experience any side effects.
Although patients may have gum improvement after tooth-whitening procedures, it is important to note the procedure shouldn't be viewed as a treatment for gingivitis. Tooth-whitening procedures target the front region of the mouth, but the real problem with periodontal disease is typically in the back region of the mouth.
"We strongly believe that this research establishes new principles for prevention, control and treatment of periodontal disease," Soukos said.
Goodson speculates there could be an actual professional product that dentists could use with their patients. They could potentially have "professional light administration," which would be similar to how dentists perform tooth whiteners
Goodson also envisions the possibility of a take-home device that could be sold in drug stores and used as part of a person's daily homecare ritual. The device would be small and fit in the mouth with an activated light source. The light would be delivered to the dental pockets in the areas between the tooth and the gum, targeting dental plaque microorganisms. It would ideally take a few minutes in the morning and evening to use, as opposed to the hour or more it takes for dentists to perform tooth-whitening procedures.
Goodson is investigating whether short doses over long periods of time will be effective.
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