Low Level Laser Therapy for Oral Mucositis

What is oral mucositis?

Oral mucositis is a common side effect of cancer therapy.  It can be caused by certain drugs that are used to treat cancer or from radiation therapy to the head and neck area.  Mucositis happens when the cells and tissues of the mouth are injured by cancer treatment, and cannot figure out if they are ‘good’ normal cells or ‘bad’ cancer cells. As a result, the lining of the mouth becomes irritated leading to redness, swelling and painful ulcers may form. Ulcers can form anywhere in the mouth, but are most common on the tongue, inside cheeks, lips and soft palate (very back of the mouth). Although mucositis may be dramatic during the time while you are being treated, the ulcers almost always heal by themselves within a few weeks after you end your cancer treatment.

Low Level Laser Therapy

Your doctor has suggested that you have a treatment called low level laser therapy (LLLT) to stop and/or treat your oral mucositis. LLLT is the application of red light to tissues to lower swelling and redness and help healing. It is believed to work by helping to increase the energy of your cells, start repair and lower the harmful molecules known as free radicals which cause damage to healthy tissue.  Unlike high-power, high heat lasers used in certain medical procedures, this procedure will use a low-level laser which has no heating or burning on the tissue.


LLLT is given by trained nursing professionals 3-5 times a week using certain equipment.  The light probe is aimed at the areas of concern both inside and outside the oral cavity for 1 minute. Depending on the number of sites to be treated, it can take up to 10-15 minutes. During this time, you can lay back and relax in a chair or bed.

You do not need to prepare before the treatment is delivered and after it is finished you can eat, drink and continue with all normal mouth care.

The course of treatment will be determined by your healthcare provider and discussed with you before proceeding.

Side Effects

There are few risks that come along with low-level laser therapy. During the treatment, you will not feel discomfort. You will not feel the laser, but you will be able to see the red light. The only known risk with the use of the laser is that the laser light could cause damage to the eyesight if the beam is accidentally pointing to the eye area. You will be given protective eye wear to avoid that risk. The protective eye wear must be worn throughout the treatment.


Updated February 2018