Laser Dentistry – Science Fiction or the Future of Oral Health?

Laser dentistry offers patients several important benefits, yet only about 5% of dental offices currently have the equipment to perform laser procedures. As patients realize the advantages of laser treatments in oral health as well as in cosmetic dentistry, the number of offices offering laser dentistry is sure to rise significantly.

Laser Dentistry Offers Important Benefits

Laser dentistry is often less painful and invasive than traditional methods. For example, a patient could opt for laser surgery to avoid anaesthesia during some procedures. Patients with cosmetic or oral health issues, especially those with low pain tolerance or a fear of dental procedures, may favour laser dentistry over surgery or other treatments.

Other benefits of laser dentistry include:

* Most dental procedures performed by laser do not necessitate the use of sutures, where traditional surgical methods would require them to control bleeding and promote healing.

* Lasers are precise; therefore, damage to the surrounding tissue is rare and usually minimal.

* The high-energy beam helps the blood to clot, resulting in less bleeding and discomfort. It also promotes cellular healing, leading to faster recovery times.

* The laser beam sterilizes the area the dentist is working on, which helps to prevent post-operative infection.

Dentists appreciate the accuracy, speed and control of laser treatments. They can perform more delicate or precise procedures quicker and with less patient discomfort. Because it is a relatively new technology, laser dentistry is improving and becoming more affordable every day. It is expected that as costs drop and demand increases, laser technology will soon be available in most dental offices.

How Do Dental Lasers Work?

There are many different types of dental lasers, but all can be classified as one of two kinds: Hard or Soft Tissue Dental Lasers.

Hard Tissue Lasers are used to accurately cut or shave bones and teeth. They may be used to repair some types of fillings or to prepare teeth for bonding.

Soft Tissue Lasers penetrate soft tissues such as the gums. The laser actually cauterizes the affected nerves and blood vessels, promoting faster healing and reducing post-operative pain.

Other lasers are used to view the inside of teeth using Optical Coherence Tomography, or provide energy to help the cells heal. It is believed that lasers will soon replace the dentist's drill – once the technology is in place to allow the dentist to access the entire tooth without surgery or drilling, those invasive, painful procedures will become obsolete.

Laser Dentistry – Is It Right for Your Procedure?

Dental lasers are used in a number of different ways. Discuss your options with your dentist – if they do not use the technology, they may refer another dentist who does. Together, consider your pain tolerance, the dentist's experience using lasers to correct your problem, your expected recovery time and the anticipated results should you choose laser dentistry instead of traditional methods.

Laser dentistry is used to treat, diagnose or prevent the following oral health issues:

Detecting Cavities – A low-intensity laser beam can provide a reading of the by-products of tooth decay, allowing the dentist to determine when cavities are present.

Optical Coherence Tomography – This revolutionary technology permits the dentist to view the inside of the teeth or gums, a procedure which would have required invasive surgery or harmful x-rays before.

Temperature Sensitivity – The tubules responsible for tooth temperature sensitivity, located at the root, can be sealed with laser technology.

Tumour Removal – Dentists can use lasers to remove benign tumours inside the mouth. This is a relatively pain-free, sterile operation as the laser reduces bleeding, kills bacteria and negates the need for sutures.

Tooth Fillings – Laser treatment is not only easier at the time of the procedure, but could lead to better long-term results. When a laser is used to remove the decay, it kills the bacteria deep in the tooth, preventing future cavities.

Nerve Regeneration – Lasers are used by other health professionals, such as Chiropractors and Massage Therapists, to regenerate damaged nerves and blood vessels. Known as Photo-biomodulation, this technique is useful in treating oral scar tissue and soft tissue damaged by other procedures or conditions.

Soft Tissue Folds – Denture-wearers with improperly fitted teeth may develop soft tissue folds, a painful condition that is easily treated with laser therapy.

Muscle Attachment – Some infants and children suffer from a tightened or restricted frenulum, which can result in an inability to breastfeed or a speech impediment. Laser treatment is effective in treating this condition.

Laser treatment has quickly become a crucial component in any cosmetic dentistry, as well. It is used in:

Teeth Whitening – Dentists use low-intensity lasers to speed the bleaching process in cosmetic teeth whitening procedures.

Gum Reshaping / Crown Lengthening – Laser dentistry is effective in reshaping gum tissue when part of the healthy tooth structure is hidden by overdeveloped gums. This is also used to prepare teeth for restorative procedures.

Treating Cold Sores – Dentists use low- intensity lasers to reduce the pain, swelling and redness of cold sores.

Where to Find Laser Dentistry Services

As more dentists practice laser dentistry, new procedures are tested and perfected. Patients appreciate the reduced risk and recovery time of laser procedures and as more and more demand that this technology be used in their dental offices, dentists around the world are complying.

Choose a dentist trained in laser dentistry for your cosmetic dentistry, teeth whitening and oral health needs. Ask friends and relatives for referrals, or have the dentist you choose provide references you can contact. Depending on your oral and overall health histories, current problems and treatment expectations, laser treatment may be a viable option for you. Discuss recovery times, the need for anaesthesia and any other questions you have with your dentist.