What is a dental laser?
Let’s begin with a little introduction to lasers in general. The word LASER is actually an acronym, standing for Light Amplification by Stimulation Emission of Radiation. Don’t let that last word scare you - the thermal radiation produced by a laser is non-ionizing, and not the type of radiation you think of when you’re being warned against exposure. Lasers have been in use in the dental industry since the 1990s and are gaining greater traction every day with continuing advances in the field.
Simplistically, lasers deliver energy in the form of light. From a dental perspective, we’re looking for the intended tissue to absorb this light and thus affect change. There are a number of photobiological effects this interaction can have that are useful for our office:
Photothermal: meaning the energy is transformed into heat. This process is beneficial for surgical incisions, hemostasis, biopsies and removal of diseased tissue.
Photochemical: lasers can stimulate chemical reactions, i.e. hardening a filling
Photoacoustic: the pulse of laser energy can act on hard tissues (the enamel and dentin that comprise your teeth) to remove decay.
Non-surgical: Laser energy can produce an oxygen radical that is used to disinfect periodontal pockets and root canals. It can also stimulate tissue to promote wound healing, pain relief, collagen growth and general decrease of inflammation.
What are dental lasers used to treat?
This laser allows us to treat many types of patients more efficiently and with less pain:
Patients with or at risk for Periodontal disease: Periodontal disease affects approximately 80% of adults, and we're learning more about it every day. We now know that it is a bacterial infection affecting pockets around teeth - given this, we want to do more than just remove mechanical irritants and diseased tissue (a traditional cleaning). We want to address the bacteria underlying this infection by decontaminating the area. This decontamination is important for three key reasons:
To reduce or eliminate bacteremia (bacteria in the blood): During a normal cleaning, many patients will have some areas that bleed a little. This allows any present bacteria (we all have some!), good or bad, to flood into the bloodstream and settle in weakened areas of our body. The latest research shows that these oral pathogens are linked to a number of other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, premature birth and more. Needless to say, anything that we can do to reduce or eliminate bacteremia is a good thing!
To prevent cross contamination: We don't want infection in one part of your mouth traveling anywhere. Decontamination minimizes the chance that a bacterial infection in one area may inadvertently be deposited in another.
To kill periodontal disease bacteria: It's important to stop the infection that results from harmful bacteria before it causes physical destruction or loss of tissue and bone attachment around your teeth.
Patients with irregular gingival levels: Are your front teeth different lengths? If so, it may actually be the current positioning of your gingiva at fault. Our laser can be used to quickly and easily remove this extra tissue and help create a beautiful smile!
Patients with extra tissue: This may be the result of past trauma or due to the positioning of your teeth. We can use the laser to remove this extra tissue, making the patient more comfortable and helping them keep their teeth clean.