Is blue light an effective bad breath treatment? Uh, no.
SUMMARY: If you're convinced that blue light can cure your halitosis, you might need to screw in your mental bulb a little tighter.
Posted: March 15, 2012
Bad breath treatments aren't a total mystery. In fact, everyone has the ability to eliminate oral odor. All it takes are a few specialty breath fresheners and the inner commitment to use them consistently. But occasionally, news sources grab hold of an unproven halitosis treatment and tout it as the next big thing in bad breath management.
Consider the case of the blue light bulb.
Just a couple of years ago, Men's Health ran an article about uncommon "cures" (their word) for several widespread health problems. Of the many unusual methods recommended by the article, the weirdest was its suggestion that people buy blue light bulbs as a bad breath treatment.
This recommendation didn't come out of nowhere. The magazine cited a study published in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Medical Microbiology (JMM). This paper reportedly found that blue light discouraged bacterial growth. So Men's Health encouraged readers to "get creative."
"Try replacing the lightbulbs over your bathroom sink with a set of GE Reveal bulbs ($4)—they give off the necessary [blue] bug-bashing rays," was the magazine's final verdict. It also noted that brushing and flossing are a must.
Does this "cure" sound a little suspect to you? If so, good. The bulb-and-bacteria experiment, which was conducted at Hebrew University's Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, can be read in its entirety online.
Let's shed some light on it:
- Researchers did not conduct the experiment in any actual mouths. (They collected saliva in Petri dishes.)
- The light wasn't exactly blue. (It had wavelengths between 400 and 500 nm, making it blue, indigo and violet.)
- The bulbs weren't low-powered. (They were xenon lamps, the kind that makes car headlights almost blinding.)
As you might imagine, installing high-watt xenon bulbs in your bathroom won't improve your bad breath, or your eyesight. (And how would you get the light down into your mouth, anyway?) Instead, consider simply buying an oxygenating, alcohol-free mouthrinse, which is proven to reduce halitosis and wash away microbes.
And if you're still set on the bulb-based panacea, consider this little chestnut, buried at the bottom of the JMM article:
Blue light exposure may have disruptive effects on cell survival, activity and growth in soft tissues... In a clinical setting, light parameters such as power density and exposure time should be optimized to minimize damage to the soft tissues and tooth demineralization.
That's quite a caveat.