Laser dentistry has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but is still awaiting final approval from the American Dental Association (ADA). Even though it is still, technically, experimental, many dentists are using laser dentistry as a cost-effective and more comfortable way to treat a range of dental issues.
The basics of laser dentistry
Lasers are basically narrow beams of light. This light creates a reaction on the surface it touches. Different types of lasers emit different types of light energy. This creates different reactions for different purposes.
Dentists use two kinds of lasers. “Hard tissue” lasers create a reaction in water and calcium phosphate so they are used on teeth. “Soft tissue” lasers create a reaction in water and hemoglobin (the molecule which makes blood red) so they are used on your gums.
Hard tissue lasers are used in much the same way as traditional dental drills. They cut into teeth either as preparation for another treatment or for aesthetic purposes. Soft tissue lasers are used in much the same way as traditional scalpels. Unlike scalpels, however, they seal the soft tissue immediately after cutting it.
What procedures can be treated by laser dentistry?
Numerous procedures can potentially be treated by laser dentistry. The most common ones are as follows.
- Detecting and treating cavities
- Reducing tooth sensitivity
- Reshaping gums
- Removing soft-tissue folds (often caused by wearing dentures)
- Improving the movement of the tongue
- Whitening teeth
Other potential uses for laser dentistry include:
- Treating infections, such as root canal infections
- Treating gum disease and gum inflammation
- Treating canker sores and cold sores
- Exposing wisdom teeth
- Treating sleep apnea
- Regenerating nerves after damage
- Undertaking biopsies and removing lesions/tumors
In general, laser treatments follow much the same format as traditional dental treatments. From a patient’s perspective, the only difference is that they will generally have to wear protective eyeglasses. Laser dentistry is, however, generally faster than traditional dentistry and may require fewer visits to get the same result.
What are the benefits of laser dentistry?
For some people, the single, biggest benefit of laser dentistry is that it can take away the need for the hated drill. You may still need an anesthetic (and a sedative if you’re anxious), but you may receive a lower dose. This means you are likely to recover from the effects more quickly. You will also be spared the vibration and noise of a traditional dental drill.
For others, the key benefit of laser dentistry is that the laser seals the tissue as soon as it has been cut. This means that there is much less bleeding and hence usually less need for sutures. Patients who dislike blood may find laser dentistry much less traumatic than traditional dentistry. All patients will find that their overall recovery time is shortened.
The last major benefit of laser dentistry is that the lasers sterilize your mouth as they work. This means that there is a much lower chance of infection. This chance is reduced even further because surgical wounds are closed so quickly. It is, however, still very important to follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions.