The research, published in the April Journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, suggests that light in the blue region of the visible spectrum might be useful in preventing, controlling or treating periodontitis -- an oral infection that can lead to loss of bone and teeth.
"Some of the key bacterial pathogens associated with periodontitis produce and accumulate compounds that are sensitive to light," said Nikos Soukos, DDS PhD, Director of the Forsyth Laboratory of Applied Molecular Photomedicine and the principal investigator. "We found that, when exposed to particular wavelengths of light, a percentage of those pathogens was eradicated within seconds."
Another important finding was that when the proportion of such pathogens was reduced, the proportion of other, potentially helpful, bacteria increased. "This suggests that it might one day be feasible to use light to restore a healthy bacterial balance in the mouth," Soukos said.
The current research stemmed from an observation by Max Goodson DDS, PhD, Director of Clinical Research at Forsyth, that the blue light used in a tooth whitening procedure appeared to decrease inflammation of the gums.
The team is currently developing a hand-held, light-based device that might, one day, be used by consumers to help combat periodontal disease.
If proved effective in clinical trials Goodson said, "Technology employing blue light to improve oral ecology could be the most important advance in maintaining periodontal health since the invention of the toothbrush."
Previous Forsyth research had shown that as many as 700 different types of oral bacteria may be found in dental plaque that accumulates on teeth. While some bacteria appear to be benign or even helpful, others may invade a
Contact: Anita Harris