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Teeth-whitening light also fights gum disease

Someday, blue light could become part of your daily routine, right after brushing and flossing.

A funny thing happened on the way to whiter teeth in dentist Max Goodson's office. He wanted to know if the intense halogen light he used to whiten teeth irritated the gums of his patients. What he found instead surprised him.

“I found in analyzing the data at the end of the experiment that, in fact, the gums were apparently getting healthier,” said Goodson, a clinical researcher from the Forsyth Institute in Boston. Goodson took his findings to photomedicine expert and denstist Nikos Soukos. They discovered the blue light could selectively kill the bacteria that causes periodontal disease. Eliminating that bad bacteria led to a healthier balance in the mouth.

“We strongly believe that this research establishes new principles for prevention, control and treatment of periodontal disease,” said Soukos, also a researcher at Forsyth Institute. The research is still ongoing in clinical studies. In the meantime, the dentists are developing a hand-held version of the blue light that consumers could eventually use daily to fight gum disease.

“There have not been a lot of novel developments in the area of oral hygiene since the toothbrush, but in this case, we’re talking about something that can do things that the toothbrush may not be able to,” Goodson said.

Researchers say since gum disease has been linked to heart attacks and strokes, this little light could even be a lifesaver.

Researchers say it is too early to know when a hand-held blue light device might be on store shelves.

They warn that standard tooth whitening won’t provide the same benefits because only the front teeth are whitened, and the real problems with gum disease are usually found in the back teeth.

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