You’ve probably seen the term “laser dentistry” before, but many people are unclear as to what it actually involves.
To find out more, we asked a number of dentists to enlighten us on this topic. Here’s what they had to say:
Laser dentistry is used for tissue augmentation, bacterial reduction, periodontal pocket treatment, and endodontic procedures.
There are several types of lasers used in different applications in modern dentistry. One is a hard tissue laser that actually will cut tooth structure and bone. This one can be used for small cavities in a tooth. It does not, however, remove old fillings, so many times a traditional handpiece is still used. The hard tissue laser can be used in some applications to help with crown lengthening surgery as it can remove some bone around the edge of the tooth to expose more of the tooth. This crown lengthening procedure has traditionally been done by a gum specialist or periodontist using traditional surgical methods.
The more common use of a laser is in the area of soft tissue. A laser can help move infected gum tissue and can help to disinfect a bacterially-laden deep periodontal pocket to help fight gum disease. A soft tissue laser can also help to recontour the tissue around the necks of the teeth to help create a more esthetic smile—like plastic surgery for the gums. The advantage of the laser is that the results are more predictable and faster, and the trimmed area is cauterized so no bleeding and faster healing times.
Laser Dentistry refers to when you use a laser to remove the decay instead of with a handpiece. The benefits are that you do not feel it and therefore do not need Novocaine. The expense in equipment is considerable—about seven to eight times normal handpieces. The other drawback is that you can not remove old silver fillings or prepare a tooth for a crown. Since most of the decay I see is under old fillings I do not see it as a good choice for my office. I do have a tissue laser that will do what my scalpel does but will also keep the area from bleeding. Some specialists and offices use a laser to perform LANAP surgery on the gums to help against gum disease and they can do deeper cleanings with a laser. Although lasers have been around for a very long time I think their use will expand in the future.
Lasers have many uses in dentistry. Depending on the wavelength of each laser, they serve many purposes. Different types of tissues (blood, skin, and bone) respond differently to different wavelengths.
For example, diode lasers can be used to cut tissue with heat when the laser beam is condensed and used in direct contact with soft tissue, similar to electrosurgical instruments, but with much less tissue damage. Diode lasers, with diffuse beam directing at, but not touching the tissue, can be used for low-level laser therapy to treat cold sores, to reduce the pain of stress blisters, to speed up healing and post-operative pain relief after surgery, and to relieve muscle pain. Since blood attracts diode laser intensity, there is a risk to the retinas of the eyes so special protective glasses need to be worn by both the patient and the operator.
Other types of lasers that are attracted by water molecules rather than by the pigments in blood are used to surgically remove and recontour bone and tooth structure as well as to cut tissue. Lasers usually require much less aggressive reduction of bone than conventional surgical rotary instruments (“drills”). Patients often report that laser use also decreases the reported post-operative discomfort after surgery. During surgical procedures, lasers also coagulate tissue to control bleeding. For example, frenectomies, the procedures used to release tongue ties, have been dramatically improved with lasers and require much less surgical trauma with greatly reduced post-operative pain. These types of lasers that are indicated for operating on the bone can also be used to encourage bone regeneration in gum disease treatment.
As you can see from the responses, lasers are flexible tools with an increasing number of uses in modern dentistry.
Technology like lasers are continually improving dentistry for patients and dentists alike, and dentists like the ones above are keeping up with advances in order to provide the best dental care they can for their patients.
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