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Laser Procedures (limited to gum surgery)

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What is Laser Dentistry?

Laser dentistry is often used in combination with traditional dental treatments to reduce patient discomfort and provide more precise results. Different types of lasers are used to reshape enamel and gum tissue and to enhance the effectiveness of smile whitening gel.

Laser dentistry is a field that’s been expanding rapidly since the FDA cleared the first dental laser for use in the 1980s. Today, lasers are used for many different dental treatments. Some dentists use lasers to replace other equipment completely for certain procedures. Others use laser technology to enhance their existing treatment approach. Patients may opt for laser dentistry procedures that offer greater speed and comfort, more effective treatment or a faster healing time. Dental lasers fall into two main categories:

  1. Those that vaporize hard or soft tissue in the mouth (enamel, dentin, gums, bone, etc.)
  2. Those that emit light in a specific wavelength to create a chemical reaction

Below, you’ll find an overview of some of the popular uses for lasers in dentistry. 

Cavity Preparation

Dental lasers are commonly used to remove decayed tooth tissue and prepare cavities for filling. Some of the proposed benefits of laser cavity preparation include:

  • No shrill, drilling noise
  • Less tooth sensitivity 
  • Faster treatment
  • Preservation of more healthy tooth structure
  • Less risk for harm to pulp at the center of the tooth (only with lasers that don’t generate too much heat during use)

The level of benefit varies depending on the size and location of the cavity as well as the individual patient. For example, some patients don’t require a local anesthetic with laser dentistry while others will still need to have the treatment area numbed to ensure comfort. Often, lasers are used to limit the amount of traditional drilling required rather than to replace the drill completely. In addition, dental lasers can’t be used for every type of restorative dental preparation. They aren’t typically suitable for treating:

  • Teeth that already contain fillings
  • Cavities located between teeth (this is a common problem with molars)
  • Teeth that require significant tissue removal in preparation for a crown or bridge

Gum Surgery

This category of laser dentistry procedures includes both medical and cosmetic treatments:

Periodontal Disease – Root planing and scaling, removal of bacteria and infected tissue from periodontal pockets, surgical reshaping of the gum to reduce the size and depth of periodontal pockets and promote reattachment of the gum to the tooth root.

Gum Recontouring – Fixing gummy smiles, creating a more symmetrical gum line and preparing the gum line for crown placement.

Some of the suggested benefits for laser dentistry in gum treatment include:

  • Less bleeding and swelling
  • Less pain during and after treatment
  • Faster healing of soft tissue
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Ability to work on multiple parts of the mouth in a single session
  • Greater precision in tissue removal

The scientific evidence for the effectiveness of lasers compared to traditional treatments for diseases like periodontitis is mixed. You can find the American Dental Association’s statement about the current evidence for various laser dentistry procedures here

Oral Surgeries

Lasers are also used for many other dental surgeries including:

  • Root canals (pulpotomy, apicoectomy, etc.)
  • Frenectomy (a corrective procedure for “tongue-tied” patients)
  • Invasive TMJ surgeries that involve reshaping cartilage or bone
  • Biopsy to diagnose oral cancer
  • Removal of benign oral tumors and other lesions
  • Pain reduction for cold sores and canker sores

Cavity Detection

This is a novel, non-invasive use for a specific type of dental laser. The light wavelength emitted by the laser causes decayed tooth tissue to fluoresce (glow) more than healthy tissue. The level of fluorescence can be measured and used to determine the extent of decay present. This approach can be useful for detecting cavities that are very small or difficult to see under a layer of apparently healthy enamel. Early detection and intervention can mean fewer and smaller fillings over the lifetime of the tooth. 

Dental Bonding

Laser lamps are sometimes used to cure and harden dental composite materials and adhesives. This includes:

  • Tooth colored resin fillings
  • Adhesives used for attaching veneers, crowns, brackets, etc.

Tooth Whitening

This is one of the most popular forms of laser dentistry. Peroxide whitening gel destroys stains as it goes through the process of breaking down into more basic chemical components. The light wavelength emitted by laser tooth whitening lamps speeds up the activity of the gel, making the smile whitening process faster and more effective. Patients can achieve a level of tooth whitening in an hour that might take many weeks with an at-home whitening kit.

Final Thoughts on Laser Dentistry

When used as directed for FDA-cleared purposes, dental lasers are considered safe and effective. With all dental lasers, patients and staff wear protective eyewear during the treatment to prevent accidental eye injury. Bear in mind that the skill and experience of Dr. Andrew Dale Meyers and Dr. Margaret H. Sullivan are still the #1 factor that impacts the outcome of your treatment. Lasers are simply a modern addition to a dentist’s toolkit!

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