The use of lasers in dentistry is an exciting and advanced technology that allows for many opportunities for the both the dentist and the patient. Laser dentistry has many applications used for both restorative as well as cosmetic dental procedures, often with some overlap. Namely lasers are used for surgery, to cure restorative materials, to enhance teeth bleaching, and to remove tooth structure for elimination of disease and restoration.
Depending on your treatment, your dentist may use the laser for a long period of time or only brief intervals. However long the use, the benefits of laser dentistry are becoming increasingly popular with dentists and are expected to be more prevalent in dentist’s offices in the future.
Advantages of Laser Dentistry
With laser surgery, there are many benefits to the patient including:
- Reduced need for local anesthesia, if any.
- Minimized bleeding.
- Less swelling.
- Little to no postoperative discomfort.
- Minimized chance of bacterial infection.
- Quick heal times.
- Many procedures that use soft tissue lasers may not require sutures.
In addition to the above advantages of dental lasers, they are also less invasive and patient-friendly than traditional treatment methods. The dentists that use lasers have been extensively trained to bring you the many advantages associated with this modern technology.
Lasers produce a light that is distinguished from ordinary light by two properties: one, it is a single color, also known as monochromaticism; two, the light waves are all coherent, which means that each wave is identical in physical size and shape. The result is a light energy that emerges from the laser as a uniquely efficient source of energy. The lasers generate a specific wavelength of non-ionizing radiation, and nearly all surgical lasers produce invisible infrared beams.
The specific wavelengths that are generated by lasers have a somewhat unique effect on dental structures, due to the specific absorption of that laser energy in the tissue. For example, some lasers are only absorbed by blood and tissue pigments and others only absorbed by water as well as hard tissue like enamel, dentin, and bone.
A thermal reaction that is absorbed in the target tissue is produced by the light energy of the lasers. There are various different temperatures that are appropriate for certain procedures. For example the removable of the inflammatory tissue present in periodontal (gum) disease can be removed at 60 degrees C, and some soft tissue surgeries are accomplished at temperatures of 100 degrees C.
Types of Dental Lasers
There are various types of lasers that are used to perform different procedures, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of hard and soft tissue lasers for the use in the dental treatment of children and adults. Because of the way lasers are absorbed by tissue, they are used to perform specific dental procedures.
Hard Tissue Lasers- Hard tissue lasers emit a wavelength that is highly absorbable by bone and teeth, making them effective for cutting through tooth structure. Using extreme precision, dentists use hard tissue lasers to cut into bone and teeth. They are often used in prepping or shaping teeth for procedures such as composite bonding, the repair of dental fillings, and the removal of small amounts of tooth structure.
Soft Tissue Lasers- Soft tissue lasers emit a wavelength that is effective for soft tissue management. In effect they are used in conjunction with periodontal therapies and have the ability to kill bacteria and rejuvenate tissue. The minimally invasive method of soft tissue lasers penetrate soft tissue while sealing blood vessels and nerve endings, resulting in little to no postoperative pain following treatment. Additionally, soft tissue lasers heal faster which is the reason so many cosmetic dental practices are employing the use of these great technological advancements for gingival sculpting procedures such as the treatment of a gummy smile.
Laser Dentistry Treatments
Laser dentistry affords many dentists the opportunity to perform a variety of different procedures with precision accuracy in a safe and effective manner. The following is a list of treatments that benefit from the use of lasers:
Teeth Whitening- The use of soft tissue dental lasers may be used to speed up the bleaching process of teeth whitening.
TMJ Treatment- TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) treatments involve the use of dental lasers to quickly reduce soreness and irritation of the TMJ.
Sleep Apnea- Dental lasers are employed for sleep apnea patients suffering from tissue overgrowth of the throat. A laser-assisted uvuloplasty or laser assisted uvula palatoplasty (LAUP) procedure can be performed to reshape the throat and relieve the correlating breathing problems associated with sleep apnea.
Cold Sores- The use of low-intensity dental lasers can reduce the pains associated with cold sores and reduce healing time.
Benign Tumors- As an alternative to sutured treatments; dental lasers may be used for the removal of begin tumors from the gums, palate, cheeks and lips.
Nerve Rejuvenation- Damaged nerves, blood vessels and scars can be regenerated by the use of photobiomodulation.
Soft Tissue Laser Dentistry Treatments
Gummy Smile- The negative appearance of a gummy smile can be remedied with dental lasers by reshaping gum tissue and exposing healthy tooth structure.
Crown Lengthening- For crown lengthening procedures dental lasers are used to expose healthy tooth structure and to reshape gum tissue. This reshaping process serves to provide a stronger foundation for the placement of restorations.
Frenectomy- A laser frenectomy may be used to help eliminate speech impediments as well as treat children who are tongue-tied. It can also be used to help babies with limited tongue movement breast feed adequately.
Soft Tissue Folds- A painless and suture-free removal of soft tissue folds caused by poorly fitted dentures can benefit from the use of dental lasers.
Hard Tissue Laser Dentistry Treatments
Sensitive Teeth- Tubules that are responsible for hot and cold tooth sensitivity are located on the root of the tooth. They can be sealed to alleviate the effects of tooth sensitivity.
Cavity Detection- Low-intensity soft tissue lasers can be used to detect cavities by discovering the effects of tooth decay.
Dental Filling Procedures- Dental lasers are used to kill bacteria in preparation of a dental filling. They eliminate the need for a local anesthetic injection and the traditional turbine drill. The use of a dental laser to kill bacteria leads to improved long-term tooth restorations.