You’re sitting on the proverbial hot seat. You’re at the dentist, and he is poking around inside your mouth before saying, “hmm, I think we can use laser for this.” You stop breathing for a moment, and your mind runs wild! What’s wrong with the traditional methods of dentistry? Is laser dentistry painful? Is it even safe? If this sounds like you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Millions of people have no understanding of how laser dentistry works, but this article seeks to clarify things for you.
Laser (or light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation) treatments seem to have found their way into all spheres of life, including dentistry. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for a dental professional to suggest laser dentistry over traditional methods, and for those who don’t know much about it, the concept may seem scary. However, the reality is that laser dentistry provides a quick, convenient, and minimal pain approach to dentistry.
With this type of treatment, lasers are used instead of a drill or a knife. Laser has been around since 1989, so it’s not a new concept. With laser, a powerful, narrow, focused beam of light energy is used. When the laser contacts tissue, it reacts, enabling the dentist to remove or shape tissue effectively.
Your dentist may suggest laser dentistry for the following procedures:
- Treating gum disease
- Treating tooth decay
- Treating hypersensitivity
- Whitening teeth
All lasers work similarly in that they deliver energy in the form of light. In a surgical procedure, the laser can be used as a cutting tool, or it can vaporize tissue that it is directed at. However, in teeth whitening, its function is different in that it creates a heat source and enhances the whitening effect.
What Makes Laser Dentistry Better Than Traditional Treatments?
You might be wondering why it’s a good idea to opt for laser dentistry. What are the benefits? Here’s a look at just some of the expected benefits of laser dental treatments.
- Often, there is no need for stitches in soft tissue laser treatments.
- Lasers sterilize the area as they work, which means there’s a reduced chance of getting a bacterial infection.
- In many instances, there’s no need for an anesthetic.
- When procedures are carried out, less damage is imposed on tissues surrounding the site being worked on.
- Laser spurs tissue regeneration which means that you will heal faster after a dental treatment or procedure.
- When procedures are carried out there is less damage imposed on tissues surrounding the site being worked on.
Soft Tissue Laser Dental Procedures
Soft tissue procedures are those that are done on soft flesh and not on hard teeth and bone. The following soft tissue dental procedures can be done with laser.
Reshaping gums to reduce a “gummy smile”
When the gum covers too much of the tooth, a laser can safely and painlessly reshape the gum line.
Treating gum frenulum attachment
Lasers can be used to detach a tight or thick frenulum that may be interfering with speech.
Eliminating soft tissue folds
Ill-fitting dentures can result in soft tissue folds. A laser can remove these folds without the need for stitches and pain.
Lasers can be used to reshape the bone and gum tissue, ensuring healthier tooth structure.
Treating gum disease
A laser can reshape gums and remove bacteria that may be present during root canal procedures.
Hard Tissue Laser Dental Procedures
Hard tissue procedures are those that are done on bones and teeth. The following hard tissue procedures can be done with laser.
Detection of cavities
A laser can detect if there is any tooth decay present. This is an excellent early-detection method.
Preparing teeth for fillings
A laser can remove any decay that is present within the tooth. It can also prepare the surrounding tooth material for the filling.
Treating sensitive teeth (sensitive to hot or cold)
Exposed tubules on the root of a tooth can lead to sensitivity to hot and cold. A laser can effectively seal the tubules and minimize or entirely eliminate pain.
Laser dentistry can also be used in several additional treatments, including:
- Tomography (seeing tissue inside the tooth or gum) – laser enables the dentist to take a closer look inside gum and tooth tissue.
- Removal of benign tumors from the palate, cheeks, gums, and lips. The laser can also remove small pieces of tissue to test for the presence of cancer cells. In addition to that, a laser can remove mouth lesions and relieve canker sore pain.
- Treating TMJ (temporomandibular joint) – laser is used to minimize inflammation and pain present in the joint.
- Regenerating nerves – laser can regenerate damaged nerves, scars, and even blood vessels.
- Whitening teeth – lasers are effective in speeding up the teeth whitening process. First, peroxide bleach is applied to the tooth, and then laser energy is used to activate it, thus speeding the process up.
What You Need to Know – Laser Dentistry Isn’t For Everyone
If you opt for laser dentistry, you may find that your dentist says you aren’t a viable candidate or that they cannot carry out a complete laser process. In addition, there are things to be aware of before opting for laser treatments.
If you have a certain type of filling, let’s say metal amalgam, you cannot have laser treatment. There is a slim chance of tooth pulp and gum injury, but cases are rare. In some instances, you may find that you still require anesthesia while the procedure is carried out – depending on the complexity of the treatment, this can sometimes be unavoidable.
There may also be times when a laser can be used for the procedure, but a drill is still required to do the final shaping and polishing and ensure that the bite is comfortable.
Dr. Sam Jethwa is well known within UK cosmetic dentistry and is a Director at The British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Sam is a dentist with a unique skill set, which allows him to take on advanced cosmetic dentistry in a predictable way to achieve stunning, long lasting, results for his patients.