Risky Business

Laser Uses in Dentistry

Might Not Be What You Think

When I think of lasers, I think of the future. Much to my denial (because I’m getting older), the future is here . . . I think. As laser dentistry continues to gain popularity, it is being implemented in more and more dental offices across the nation. Although great for a wide range of procedures, don’t be misled about its capabilities.

Laser dentistry has come a long way since its introduction in 1985. Currently there are 24 FDA approved indications for the use of lasers in dentistry. Below is a summary of how laser dentistry can benefit you:

Hard tissue (teeth and bone)

The lasers used in dentistry have great capabilities, but it’s good to know there are different energy lasers for different types of procedures. The dentist can determine when using laser technology will be beneficial to you. Lasers are safely used to:

  • Remove cavities
  • Prepare teeth
  • Remove tooth pulp, Endodontic treatment
  • Contour bone
  • Remove filling material
Surgical Periodontal Treatment (gums)

Soft tissue lasers are commonly used for altering the gums. Great surgical results are still widely obtained from traditional methods of alterations, but lasers have advantages other surgical methods do not. It helps promote blood coagulate, reduces post-operative swelling, diminishes bacteria at the surgical site and encourages faster healing. Lasers can also be used non-invasively for shrinking enlarged blood vessels in or around the lips and mouth. Here is a list of common soft tissue procedures approved for laser treatment.

  • Gingivectomy
  • Gingivoplasty
  • Frenectomy
  • Venous lake reduction
  • Free gingival grafts
  • Crown lengthening
  • Biopsies
Nonsurgical Periodontal Treatment (cleanings)

A lot of offices are now offering laser cleanings. I have seen it advertised as painless cleanings that are less traumatic on the teeth. This is misleading because it’s not really a cleaning. The truth is lasers are helpful when used in CONJUNCTION with traditional cleaning methods but cannot do the job alone.

Currently no dental laser effectively removes tartar or calculus from the tooth and root structure, this still has to be accomplished through scaling and root planing. The laser is more of a localized gum sterilizer if you will. It does reduce the bacterial levels and inflammation around the teeth. This is beneficial because it helps with healing and can improve the quality of diseased tissue. On the other hand, bacteria lives in our mouth, both good and bad. It only takes a short amount of time for the bacteria to proliferate and re-infect areas that are had to access or aren’t cleaned well. The laser would have to be used repeatedly or regularly to keep bacteria levels down thus making it hard to say whether lasers for dental cleaning are effective or even worth it.

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