In the sixties when lasers were first invented, most people imagined the technology would either fizzle out or be used to destroy galaxies far, far away. Fast-forward to today’s world, and it’s rare to find a technology or device that doesn’t include lasers. Used for everything from entertaining cats to smoothing skin, our world wouldn’t be the same without lasers—and that includes the field of dentistry. Today, dental professionals use a variety of different lasers to provide powerful, precise results. Here are five incredible ways lasers have improved dentistry.
If you are like most people, you probably cringe when you think of a dentist or dental hygienist poking and prodding your teeth with dental explorer tools. Although dental exams using explorer tools might seem torturous, those sharp tools used to be the best way to spot a sticky cavity or quickly remove tartar between the teeth.
However, modern laser dental explorer tools like the Canary System are capable of detecting dental decay with astounding accuracy, even decay invisible to the naked eye. In fact, according to one study, the system detected 93% of cavities, while simple X-rays only spotted 27% of existing early caries. With the type of early cavity detection offered by laser explorer systems, dentists can address dental decay proactively—saving patients time, money, and pain.
More Effective Gum Disease Treatment
In the United States, gum disease is an epidemic, with reports showing that almost half of people over the age of 18 suffers from some form of gum disease. In addition to causing problems like bad breath, the bacteria that cause gum disease can eventually attack the underlying structures that support teeth, causing tooth loss, bone loss, and even a changing face shape. New studies have also tied periodontal disease to a litany of different serious systemic conditions ranging from COPD to kidney cancer.
Up until a few years ago, dentists mainly treated advanced gum disease by using procedures like pocket reduction surgery and scaling and planing—treatments that could sometimes be invasive and required long recovery periods. However, the Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure, or LANAP, has changed all of that. Using a small periodontal probe fitted with a laser, periodontists can eradicate diseased tissue and destroy bacteria without making incisions. Also, since the lasers used in LANAP in Long Island shine harmlessly through healthy tissue while simultaneously obliterating bacteria and diseased tissue, they help to preserve healthy cells—speeding recovery.
In the old days, the only way dentists, orthodontists, and prosthodontists could create crowns, retainers, and dentures was to take putty molds of your teeth, hope everything came out perfect, send that mold to a lab, and anxiously await its return. In addition to being far from a perfect science, this process also tended to take weeks, especially if the permanent models came back flawed.
However, in today’s world, many dentists use powerful imaging lasers that can record tooth position, size, and surface texture perfectly—allowing dentists to send electronic “molds” to dental labs in an instant. CAD/CAM technology used with lasers also allows dentists to create 3D models of patient’s teeth, so that they can demonstrate things like treatment progression, prosthodontics outcomes, and potential veneer results.
Precision Without the Pain
One of the best things about laser dentistry is that it is a lot more precise than traditional drilling techniques. Special dental lasers can be used to precisely remove overgrown gum tissue and zap away cavities in an instant—often without the kind of uncomfortable vibrations that traditional dental drills create. These lasers work by using powerful beams of light to heat up the water molecules in the tooth, which expands and dislodges decay.
Since using lasers to remove decay is so precise and effective, many patients don’t even require anesthetic shots before their fillings. For example, one study conducted in Japan found that 68% of adult patients reported no pain when having decay removed with a dental laser, and 22% of patients experienced only slight pain. Because drill-free fillings with lasers are tolerated so well, many dentists offer laser decay removal for children who may be afraid of anesthetic injections.
Dental lasers can also be used for a wide variety of cosmetic dental applications, including tooth whitening, gum bleaching, and even crown lengthening to expose more of the tooth’s natural surface. Since lasers have different settings, dentists can carefully adjust the laser’s power to give patients more tailored results. Also, since lasers are so effective, they speed up cosmetic dental treatments, allowing patients to enjoy a brighter, whiter smile in as little as a single appointment.
If you are interested in enjoying laser dental treatments, talk with your dentist about whether or not they plan to integrate these exciting new tools in their practice.