Are you one of those who avoids going to the dentist because you cannot stand the sound of the drill? Do you feel nauseous thinking about the blood that is often accompanied by dental procedures? Or have you wished and wished for a dental procedure which is quick, painless and does not sound like construction work in your mouth?
If yes, then it is safe to say that your wishes have been fulfilled (And it has been quite a while).
What is Laser Dentistry?
Laser dentistry refers to the use of Lasers in dental treatments.
LASER is the acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and is a device that produces monochromatic (of a single color), nondivergent (concentrated at a point), single wavelength light. In other words, a laser produces a very narrow beam of high-intensity light which can be used for various purposes.
In dentistry, laser technology is used for a range of treatments like teeth whitening, gum disease treatment, root canal, decayed tooth, cavities, caries, mouth lesions, abscess drainage, biopsy, removal of overgrown tissue, bacterial infections etc.
Using lasers give quick results, is painless and noiseless.
This ingenious treatment procedure has been around for almost 20 years. The first laser designed for dental use was created in 1989 and the use of lasers gained FDA approval in 1990s. And since then the use of lasers has transformed the face of dentistry.
However, ADA or America Dental Association still hasn’t given the seal of acceptance to any of the laser technologies (the seal of acceptance denotes that the procedure meets the ADA standards of safety and efficacy), it does state its stance on the use of laser in dentistry as cautiously optimistic.
How does Laser Dentistry work for various Teeth Ailments?
The mechanism is simple.
A laser produces narrow beam of high intensity light on the target tissue in which this light energy is absorbed (the extent of which depends on characteristics of the tissue and wavelength of the light).
The absorbed light causes a thermal reaction in the tissue, that is, it turns into heat and increases the temperature of that area which can have many results, for example, denaturation, vaporization, haemostasis, ablation etc of the tissue in that area. (the nature of which again depends on the characteristics of the tissue and light).
The results of an interaction between a specific tissue and light of a certain wavelength are known and predictable. Even though these may sound gruesome, they are in reality desirable and they allow dentists to perform various treatments.
With the use of lasers, many procedures can be done effectively, quickly, without noise and in a pain free manner. The use of lasers in dentistry includes (but is not limited to) procedures like:
1. Laser Dentistry for Teeth whitening
Teeth Whitening is a process of getting the discolored teeth whitened by use of various chemicals and/or dental procedures like scaling. It is one of the most popular cosmetic dental procedure and an effective way to lighten the shade of teeth without major damage to the enamel.
Teeth whitening by laser is also called “power whitening”. Done exclusively in dentist’s office, the process involves applying powerful bleaching product like hydrogen peroxide on the teeth and then exposing the teeth to laser which increases the heat, thereby activating the bleach for faster results.
The whole process can take upto 30-90 minutes (as opposed to traditional methods which even take weeks) and can help you achieve teeth as much as 5-6 shades lighter.
Since the process involves use of strong bleach and laser light a rubber mouth guard is put on the mouth to protect lips and gums. Cheek retractors and desensitising paste or products may also be used. Even glasses to protect the eyes are provided as safety measures.
The dental procedure of teeth whitening has obvious benefits of improving the appearance of a person and along with that boosting his/her self confidence. However, teeth whitening with help of lasers is costly and the most expensive method to achieve the goal of whitened teeth compared to other methods.
One should also keep in mind some of the side effect that may occur for instance teeth sensitivity, gum-tissue irritation, thermal sensitivity, tingling sensation, tooth pain or discomfort etc.
But the risk of developing these side effects are much lower in case of laser treatment compared to other whitening procedures. Further, these effects are temporary and tend to disappear after a while. Nonetheless, using lasers is one of the best way to obtain whiter teeth quickly.
2. Laser Dentistry for Gum Disease Treatment
Also known as periodontal laser therapy, the procedure uses lasers to treat bacterial infection in gums, remove infected gum tissue reshape gums etc. Many procedures like that of gingivectomy and LAPNAP use laser to remove diseased or infected gum tissue, clean roots and gum area and reshape the gum and root area for effective healing.
These techniques are minimally invasive , significantly reduce the swelling and bleeding compared to traditional procedures and fast-track healing process. Further the use of lasers do not require the administration of anesthesia.
These procedures are quick and their benefits are manifold. Safe to say, that the use of lasers has revolutionized and changed the face of periodontal treatments.
3. Laser Dentistry for Curing Cavities, Caries and Tooth Decays
Lasers are also being used in filling up and detecting cavities and tooth decays, successfully detecting and removing caries and doing all this in pain free manner.
Lasers are more accurate in detecting and focusing on affected area. Thus there use is beneficial for unnecessary removal of healthy tissue/teeth is not required.
Lasers also have antibacterial properties which ensures that the remaining tissue is healthy and infection free.
4. Laser Dentistry for Biopsy and Lesion removal
Soft tissue in mouth can be easily incised and removed using lasers. Lasers light is focused on the dead tissue which vaporizes it. This is much more precisely than drills and other traditional technology.
Thus removal of tissue for biopsy and lesions in mouth can be easily done using lasers.
These procedures can also cure and remove canker sores in mouth. The use of anesthesia is not required and the procedures are relatively quick with lesser side effects.
5. Laser Dentistry for Root Canal
Root canal is a procedure done to cure deep decay of tooth, re-decay around filling or cracks that cause trauma or injury to the pulp of the tooth.
The procedure involves cleaning and curing the infected pulp to restore healthy tooth. Since lasers target infected area more efficiently and precisely they are used by many doctors in root canal procedures.
Aside from being pain-free and quick they also reduce the recovery time. Further surrounding healthy tissue is not damaged.
However some disadvantages of using lasers in root canal therapy include difficulty in maneuvering and the risk of over heating of the target tissue.
Laser dentistry is a budding but rapidly growing field and there are many more treatments which employ use of laser.
For example, treating odontogenic infection or abscess drainage, reshaping of gums and crowns, expose partially erupted wisdom teeth, small surgical procedures, bone surgery, remove muscles or tissues that hamper proper movement, ulcer treatment, strengthening implants and seals, treating infections, scaling, teeth cleaning etc.
What are the Benefits of Using Lasers in destistry?
Using laser in dentistry or getting a laser dental procedure have some very obvious advantages which are reason enough for their widespread use and rapidly growing demand. Some of the benefits are:
- Use of lasers reduces the need and use of anesthesia for the procedure is almost pain free. This is also beneficial to those who fear the pain associated with dental procedures.
- Its precise focus on affected area preserves the surrounding healthy tissue.
- The procedure minimizes swelling and bleeding for many underlying nerves are cauterized (burned to stop bleeding) because of heat generated.
- It is apt for people who feel anxious during dentist visits as the procedure is noise free, unlike the traditional drill. Thus it significantly reduces the anxiety associated with dental treatments.
- It is effective in detecting cavities and tooth decays
- Reduce post-procedure infection. Are also the best option to treat bacterial infections.
- New age dental lasers have many features like reporting the pulp temperature etc which allows much better treatment. They are also easier to handle and give more movement to the dentist.
- They are less invasive and less destructive than drills
- The post-op scars and marks are lesser and smaller
- Lasers decrease post-op discomfort, pain, swelling and fast-track healing process.
What are the limitations of Laser Dentistry ?
Despite the manifold benefits there are some limitations when it comes to using lasers in dental procedures.
- Many treatments cannot be done using lasers and require the use of dental drills
- Lasers are slower where treatment of large cavities are concerned
- They cannot be used on or around existing amalgam fillings due to the risk of mercury exposure (For the heat generated by lasers can melt the filling leading to leakage of mercury which is poisonous)
- Traditional drills may be required in many cases. Lasers are not adept where polishing, shaping and adjusting of fillings or bites is concerned. Many procedures cant be done using lasers.
- Even when lasers are used, they can’t be used to fill cavities located between the teeth or for preparing teeth for bridges, neither can they be used to remove defective crowns.
- Lastly, procedures that employ lasers are costly and way more expensive than traditional methods.
In the end..
Lasers are a revolution in the field of dentistry.
The use of laser in dentistry has transformed the face of many dental procedures like teeth whitening, periodontal therapy, root canal, filling up cavities, curing infection, caries, decay, ulcers etc.
Lasers are more efficient, precise and significantly reduce the pain, swelling, bleeding, anxiety, trauma and post-op discomfort associated with dental procedures.
Even though they are expensive and not all treatments can be administered using lasers, both their use and demand are increasing. Laser dentistry is a budding field but has a bright future with vast scope.