Dentistry is always evolving, and a potential big step for the industry is the introduction of laser technology. Dental lasers have been around for almost 30 years, long enough for dentists to understand the technology, its benefits, and any limitations.
In this guide, we’ll address how dental lasers are transforming how Houston dental professionals do their job, and how they can make treatment easier for patients to handle.
Four Common Laser Dentistry Procedures
Dental lasers can be used in a variety of dental procedures, including:
- Treating gum disease – Soft tissue dental lasers are effective at precisely targeting and destroying diseased gum tissue. This includes the inflamed tissue surrounding the tooth root and the tartar extending below the gum line.
- Cleaning out tooth decay – Erbium lasers are typically used in tooth decay removal, as they’re calibrated to target harder tissues like tooth enamel. During the procedure, the laser precisely targets decayed areas and burns them off, leaving clean, healthy tooth material behind.
- Reshaping the gums – A “gummy smile,” or excessive gingival display, occurs when too much gum tissue is visible when the mouth is open. This usually affects the top line of teeth more than the bottom. Soft tissue lasers can be used to remove and reshape this gum tissue, ensuring a better-looking smile.
- Teeth whitening – Dental laser technology is also useful for teeth whitening procedures. Once whitening gel is applied to the teeth, the laser is focused on this gel, which “activates” the whitening compounds. It effect, laser energy catalyzes the process, which means more effective and faster treatment.
This is far from a full list, as laser treatments can also be used to address hypersensitivity or even remove tissue samples (biopsies) for laboratory analysis. Dental lasers can also address tongue ties (frenulum attachment), benign tumors, cold sores or tissue folds caused by poor-fitting dentures.
Some of the Limitations with Dental Laser Technology
As versatile as dental lasers are, they must be considered on a patient-by-patient basis. In some cases, laser dentistry isn’t possible due to where the treatment site is located. For example, cavities located between teeth will require an alternative. Also, dental lasers cannot be used on teeth that already have amalgam fillings in them.
Reduced Pain and Bleeding are Some of Laser Dentistry’s Benefits
If laser dentistry is an option, it provides several advantages to the patient. Some of those benefits include:
- Reduced pain and discomfort – Dental lasers minimize pain, pressure, and discomfort in most patients. Because treatment is precise and does not rely on a drill or other anxiety-causing instruments, most people are better able to tolerate laser dentistry treatments.
- Reduced bleeding – Because dental lasers rely on light and heat, they cauterize as they treat tissues. Cauterization seals off these vessels, so they are less likely to bleed.
Dental lasers are also far less likely to affect tissues around the treatment area, which also reduces bleeding risk.
- Reduced likelihood of post-treatment infection – Laser dentistry destroys bacteria as it treats the patient. This, and reduced bleeding, minimizes the likelihood of infection following the procedure.
- Greater treatment precision – Laser dentistry’s primary advantage may be its precision. Light can be targeted exactly where it needs to go, so only the amount of energy that’s needed to perform the treatment is applied.
- Faster healing and recovery – Because laser dentistry is so precise, it is less likely to cause damage to the area surrounding the treatment site. Further, laser treatment is easier for tissues to tolerate, and may even regenerate certain types of tissue, like blood vessels or nerve endings. This adds up to a quicker, more comfortable recovery.
- Anesthesia and dental drills may be unnecessary – Following some laser dental procedures, the dentist will need to go over the teeth with a drill or burr to finish treatment. In many cases, though, laser dentistry can be performed without the help of anesthesia or a drill. As both can drive up dental anxiety, laser dentistry can be one way to encourage people to make an appointment.
The Different Types of Dental Lasers and How They Work
Dental lasers work using the same general principle – they emit concentrated light energy in a certain wavelength band. Different laser wavelengths are designed for different types of tissues – carbon dioxide lasers, for example, produce light energy that’s optimally absorbed by water and hemoglobin, so it’s typically used with soft tissues.
Other dental lasers include:
- Diode lasers, which are best absorbed by tissue pigmentation. This makes them an effective choice for teeth whitening and soft tissue procedures.
- Erbium lasers, which produce energy that’s absorbed by water and a bone mineral (hydroxyapatite). This means erbium lasers are the best fit for treatment involving bone or tooth enamel.
- Nd:YAG lasers, which are also absorbed by tissue pigments. The name stands for neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet and describes the crystal medium used to power the laser. These lasers are effective tools for lesions and gum disease.
- Argon lasers, which are also favored by tissue pigmentation. Argon lasers have a specialized purpose, as their bluish light can be used to accelerate resin curing and activate compounds in whitening solutions.
When laser light is absorbed by dental tissues, the result is heat. As the tissue heats, it’s effectively burned away and vaporized. Again, laser application is precise, so only the treatment area is affected with light and thermal energy.
Laser Dentistry is a Modern Option That Offers Major Advantages to Patients
Dental health is extremely important, but anxiety about pain or the use of certain tools can interfere. For people who get anxious over an upcoming Houston appointment, laser dentistry is a minimal-pain, minimal-discomfort and minimal-bleeding procedure option.
It can also be used in many treatments where it’s a proven efficacious option. However, it’s essential that patients pick a Houston practice that’s trained in the proper use of dental lasers. Even though these tools are medical marvels, a trained Houston practitioner will know how to minimize any risk associated with laser dental treatments.