Forty years ago, using a laser in dentistry sounded like something straight out of Star Trek. But Dr. McCoy isn't the only one using lasers anymore. More and more laser dentists now use lasers in dentistry treatments such as the removal of tooth decay, root canals and teeth whitening.
At this point, dental technology is outpacing the dental consumer in every way. A great many people have never used a dental laser in their lives, yet more and more technological advancements are occurring in the field of laser dentistry. At this point, it is necessary to know the basics. With so many options, let's try to make heads or tails of it.
"Laser" is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. What does all this mean? In essence, a laser produces a very exact beam of concentrated laser energy that can treat a wide variety of dental problems. The laser sterilizes and coagulates blood vessels at the same time, thereby reducing the opportunity for infection. Lasers in dentistry can be used for surgical procedures such as a cutting instrument or tissue vaporizer, meaning it melts away tissue it comes in contact with.
Safety glasses will be used to protect your eyes from any harm. In many cases, the use of the laser instead of the drill or knife greatly reduces pain during the procedure. Depending upon what you need and your pain tolerance, anesthesia is sometimes unnecessary!
Like everything under the sun (or moon or stars or clouds), laser dentistry has its own pros and cons. One major pro is that patients may now avoid hearing the dreadful sound of the drill in some cases, as lasers in dentistry can now perform the traditional drill's responsibilities.
Besides that, laser dentistry scores points with patients and laser dentists in other ways, too.
- Use of lasers in dentisry reduces the need for local anesthesia and sedation dentistry. This is because using a laser in dentistry may cause less pain in some instances, so that anesthesia is no longer a requirement.
- With laser dentistry, minimized bleeding and controlled swelling during gum disease treatment are a possibility. This is good news, but because it gives people less excuse to be absent for school or work, it may be bad for some.
- The tooth's ability to heal where deep cavities have existed is enhanced by using lasers in dentistry treatments. Though you won't heal as quickly as a mutant or a superhero, your tooth may heal a bit faster than the average healing time -- at least for humans.
- Cosmetic laser dentistry is an excellent solution for patients who want to refresh their smiles quickly and economically. With cosmetic laser dentistry, your dentist can whiten your teeth up to eight shades brighter in just about an hour! Cosmetic laser dentistry is also ideal for patients in need of dental bonding, which is used to repair minor chips, cracks or even breaks in teeth.
- Post-operative discomfort is also minimized by using a laser in dentistry procedures.
- Waiting time to finish a tooth filling is reduced as lasers are used as curing for the dental filling.
- It can't be used for many common procedures. Lasers are unable to adequately remove silver dental fillings, dental onlays or a dental crown or to fill cavities between teeth, around old dental fillings and large cavities.
- Some cases may still require drills to shape a tooth filling even when lasers are already used. Even with the use of lasers, a drill may be needed, at least in some circumstances.
- Use of lasers may not allow a patient to bid anesthesia goodbye completely, because some cases still require anesthesia to eliminate pain during the procedure. This just means pain is not entirely absent when a laser is used.
You and your laser dentist will decide which laser is right for you. Here is a quick look at some of the amazing treatments that can be afforded by using a laser for your next procedure. This is NOT an exhaustive list; your own laser dentist can fill in the blanks:
Root canal therapy
Treatment of cold sores
Replacing stitches (sutures)
Detection of cavity micro-fractures
Cutting and draining dental abscesses
Light activation of bleaching material