photobiomodulation and pain reduction in patients requiring orthodontic band application: randomized clinical trial

Authors: M.F. Sfondrini, M. Vitale, A.L.B. Pinheiro, P. Gandini, L. Sorrentino, U.M. Iarussi, A. Scribante.

Citation: BioMed Research International (2020), Article ID 7460938

Background: Light therapy, or photobiomodulation, involves the application of a light source such as a laser to an area of the body for therapeutic purposes. Light therapy works on the principle that cells absorb light which triggers chemical and physical reactions including stimulation of mitochondria, which produce cellular energy. One of the effects of light therapy is the reduction of pain.

Objective: To determine if application of low-level light therapy would reduce pain associated with orthodontic band application in a randomized placebo-controlled study.

Who Was It? Twenty-six patients requiring orthodontic band application participated in this study. They ranged in age from 7 to 20 years.

What Was Done? Subjects were randomly assigned to the placebo group or the light therapy group. After application of the orthodontic bands, subjects received one session of light therapy to four points around the banded teeth. Researchers were blinded to what group the subjects were in. This study used laser light therapy, which is different from the LED light therapy used in home photobiomodulation devices. Although debated, LED light therapy is thought by many to be comparable or even superior to laser light therapy. The main difference between the two is the narrow focus of laser light, which makes it suitable for targeting a small area of treatment, as in this study.

What Happened? The subjects who received light therapy had significantly lower pain at 5 minutes, 1 hour, and 12 hours after treatment as compared to the control group. Subjects in the light therapy group still reported experiencing some pain, which followed a similar pattern to subjects in the control group, albeit at a lower intensity.

Fringe Commentary: As a mom of two kids with braces, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this study. I know how much orthodontics can hurt, and to learn that pain can be reduced simply by the application of light therapy is quite remarkable. It is especially remarkable that pain intensity was decreased with a single session! Light therapy is proving to be extremely versatile, with applications for a range of different outcomes, as we will be exploring in our newsletter this month. Stay tuned next week as we explore the use of light to improve sleep quality.

FYI: The technical definition of photobiomodulation is “A form of light therapy that utilizes non-ionizing forms of light sources, including LASERS, LEDs, and broad-band light, in the visible and infrared spectrum. It is a non-thermal process involving endogenous chromophores eliciting photophysical (i.e. linear and non-linear) and photochemical events at various biological scales. This process results in beneficial therapeutic outcomes including but not limited to the alleviation of pain or inflammation, immunomodulation, and promotion of wound healing and tissue regeneration.” (North American Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy,


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