Typically when people think about the dentist, they imagine a sterile room and the sound of a drill buzzing in the background. This kind of imagery can spike many people’s anxieties about having regular dental checkups, and their oral health can suffer as a result. Many people don’t know that laser dentistry has been around for quite some time to treat various dental conditions involving tooth tissue, often providing a more comfortable treatment option compared to drills and non-laser tools.
LASER actually stands for “light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation,” using a tool that emits a very narrow and pin-pointed beam of light energy. This laser is able to move and remove tissue at contact, helping dentists resolve issues in procedures like hypersensitivity, gum disease, tooth decay, and removing stains from teeth. Laser treatments can even make dental care more efficient and affordable, and its use has been approved by the FDA to be utilized for various dental procedures. Meanwhile, dental professionals are still waiting for the ADA to do the same, as many are looking to add laser treatment as an option for their patients.
There are hard tissue, and soft tissue lasers and their use depends on the kind of treatment. Some will need the use of both types if there is reconstruction of both tooth and gum or other soft mouth tissues. Hard tissue lasers are able to efficiently cut through hard tooth structures, and their wavelengths are absorbed through water and the minerals contained inside the teeth. These hard tissue lasers are most helpful for shaping teeth, preparing them for bonding or dental fillings.
Soft tissue lasers are most often used to treat periodontal issues like gum disease and infections by killing bacteria and activating tissue regrowth along the gum line. The lasers are absorbed through water and hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. They’re also able to cauterize and seal nerve endings and blood vessels while penetrating the tissue to remedy the problem. With this technology, tissues are able to heal faster, speeding up both treatment plans and healing times.
How Lasers Work
Laser treatment is versatile as it can be used for both hard and soft tissues, meaning on teeth as well as gums. Most commonly, lasers can detect early onset tooth decay, helping treat cavities before they grow to become bigger problems resulting in root canals or reconstructive work like caps or crowns. Many people will be thrilled to learn that using lasers to procure fillings in the mouth won’t call for any local anesthesia like classic dental work using drills. Lasers are able to kill bacteria in the cavity without having to break and wear it down, saving a lot of extra dental work for both dentist and patient. People who suffer from tooth hypersensitivity can also benefit from laser treatment as the beams can be used to seal off tubules in the teeth that are open and cause pain when in contact with hot or cold.
Dentists are also able to use lasers to help alter people’s gum lines. Some patients come in looking to fix their “gummy smile,” which otherwise would require gum surgery using utensils that cut the skin. Lasers can be used to do the same work with much less risk of error and infection. Patients who wear dentures can also have gum tissue altered with a laser to help secure their apparatus without skin and gum irritation. Similarly, dentists can use lasers for a procedure called crown lengthening, which reshapes both gum tissue and the bone to promote healthier and sturdier tooth structure for tooth restorations like crowns and even veneers.
Lasers have been assisting in bodily surgeries in other medical fields for quite some time, which makes them suitable for dental procedures that commonly require a scalpel. Treatments like shortening the tongue frenulum, a condition that usually affects small children who are born with short tongues that inhibit proper growth and development, can be done much more quickly with lasers. They can also easily remove small benign tumors in the mouth, as well as stubborn cold sores, along with helping reshape areas of the throat that can cause sleep apnea in some patients. Lasers have also been used to help people who have jaw joint issues like TMJ, by helping reduce inflammation and an added ability to be able to help regenerate nerves and reduce the size of scarring.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Laser Dentistry
When people have any kind of treatment on soft tissue where incisions are made, it can mean stitches and prolonged healing time with the risk of infection always at bay. With laser dentistry, simple treatments like these are less risky and complicated, and there is less bleeding. Often times, anesthesia is unnecessary, and the surgery creates much less damage to the surrounding tissue, helping the wounds heal much faster.
Currently, the most significant disadvantage of laser dentistry is that they can’t be used on existing dental work like metal or amalgam fillings. Hard lasers are powerful, and if misused, they can injure teeth down to the pulp, causing nerve damage. Based on the preexisting condition of the surrounding soft tissue around a tooth, hard lasers may be too powerful to use for specific treatments, and dentists will still have to rely on old fashioned methods with a drill to complete fillings, shaping, and filling.
Laser dentistry is a viable option for oral care for almost anyone. People interested in laser treatments should contact dentists who are professionally certified to use lasers and are urged to ask their insurance providers for a list of dentists who have experience with this form of work. Many online resources can provide ratings of different dentists who use laser treatments with unbiased reviews, which can help narrow down the selection process. As always, people are urged to seek second opinions before having any major work done.