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Laser therapy cures bad breath

16 Nov 2004

Israeli doctors use a CO2 laser to ablate the tonsils of patients suffering from severe halitosis.

Laser therapy could be the answer to bad breath according to Israeli research. In a recent study, a team of doctors used a CO2 laser to cure 51 out of 53 patients suffering from severe halitosis. (Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery 131 372)

Colleagues from Sapir Medical Centre, Chaim Sheba Medical Centre and Tel Aviv University conducted the research to investigate tonsils as a source of halitosis and assess the potential of laser ablation as a treatment.

The study contained 30 men and 23 women aged from 18 to 61 years, all suffering with halitosis originating from chronic fetid tonsillitis. In the condition, the surface of the tonsil becomes infected with gas-producing bacteria that can hide in openings known as crypts and cause bad breath.

The treatment consisted of guiding a CO2 laser beam with a power of between 10 and 20 W over the tonsils. A scanner quickly rotates the focused laser beam over a 3 - 4 mm circle to vaporize the tonsils without causing thermal damage to surrounding tissue.

The advantage of the technique is that it can be performed in an office setting with the patient under local anaesthetic. Of the 53 patients in the study, 47 immediately resumed regular work and routine activities. All patients were back at work within 3 days of receiving treatment, which lasted no more than 20 minutes.

28 patients were cured in one session, 18 patients required a second visit and 5 patients returned for a third treatment. "The findings show that the tonsils are a source of halitosis, and are effectively treated by laser vaporization," said the authors in their paper. "All our patients were cured from their bad breath, 51 by cryptolysis [the laser therapy] and only 2 patients by tonsillectomy."

James Tyrrell is reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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