Lasers in Dentistry

Laser dentistry is a precise and effective way to perform many dental procedures while providing a safe and comfortable treatment option. It also helps patients by minimizing pain and recovery time. Lasers allows the dentist to treat an area, whether gum or tooth structure, in a highly specific area of focus without damaging surrounding tissues.

Types of Dental Lasers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved of a variety of hard and soft tissue lasers for use in the dental treatment of adults and children.

Hard Tissue Lasers

Hard tissue lasers have a wavelength that is highly absorbable by hydroxyapatite (calcium phosphate salt found in bone and teeth) and water, making them more effective for cutting through tooth structure. The primary use of hard tissue lasers is to cut into bone and teeth with extreme precision. Hard tissue lasers are often used in the prepping and/or the shaping of teeth for composite bonding, the removal of small amounts of tooth structure and the repair of certain worn down dental fillings.

Hard Tissue Procedures

  • Cavities: Low intensity soft tissue dental lasers may be used for the early detection of cavities by providing a reading of the by-products produced by tooth decay.

  • Dental Fillings and Tooth Preparation: Hard tissue dental lasers may eliminate the need for a local anesthetic injection and the traditional turbine dental drill. Lasers used in dental filling procedures are capable of killing bacteria located in a cavity, potentially leading to improved long term tooth restorations.

  • Tooth Sensitivity: Dental lasers may be used to seal tubules (located on the root of the tooth) that are responsible for hot and cold tooth sensitivity.

Soft Tissue Lasers

Soft tissue lasers boast a wavelength that is highly absorbable by water and hemoglobin (oxygenating protein in red blood cells), making them more effective for soft tissue management. These may be used for periodontal treatments and have the ability to kill bacteria and activate the re-growth of tissues.  Soft tissue lasers penetrate soft tissue while sealing blood vessels and nerve endings. This is the primary reason why many people experience virtually no postoperative pain following the use of a laser. Also, soft tissue lasers allow tissues to heal faster. In addition to the lasers used for cutting and shaping hard and soft tissues, other laser types are specifically designed for viewing the insides of teeth and cells using Optical Coherence Tomography, a non-invasive imaging technique.

Soft Tissue Procedures

  • Aesthetic Crown Lengthening: Dental lasers can reshape gum tissue (soft tissue laser) and bone (hard tissue laser) to expose healthier tooth structure. Such reshaping also provides a stronger foundation for the placement of restorations.

  • Gummy Smile: Dental lasers can reshape gum tissue to expose healthy tooth structure and improve the appearance of a gummy smile. Muscle Attachment (Frenula): A laser frenectomy is an ideal treatment option for children who are tongue tied (restricted or tight frenulum) and babies unable to breast feed adequately due to limited tongue movement. A laser frenectomy may also help to eliminate speech impediments.

  • Soft Tissue Folds (Epulis): Dental lasers may be used for the painless and suture-free removal of soft tissue folds often caused by ill-fitting dentures. Other Applications

  • Viewing Tooth and Gum Tissues: Optical Coherence Tomography is a safer way to see inside tooth and gums in real time. Benign Tumors: Dental lasers may be used for the painless and suture-free removal of benign tumors from the gums, palate, sides of cheeks and lips.

  • Cold Sores: Low intensity dental lasers reduce pain associated with cold sores and lesions and reduce healing time. Nerve Regeneration: Photobiomodulation can be used to regenerate damaged nerves, blood vessels and scars.

  • Sleep Apnea: In cases where sleep apnea is a result of a tissue overgrowth in areas of the throat (which sometimes occurs with age), a laser assisted uvuloplasty or laser assisted uvula palatoplasty (LAUP) procedure can be performed to reshape the throat and relieve the correlating breathing problems associated with sleep apnea

  • Teeth Whitening: Low intensity soft tissue dental lasers may be used to speed up the bleaching process associated with teeth whitening.

  • Temporomandibular Joint Treatment: A patient who has their mouth open for an extended period of time may experience myofascial pain, TMD symptoms, jaw stiffness, and earaches. Dental lasers can be used to quickly reduce pain and inflammation of the temporomandibular jaw joint, regenerating damaged nerves and blood vessels to provide an analgesic effect for pain management.

  • Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene is common in orthodontic patients and can result in gingival overgrowth, pseudo-pocket formation, and plaque retention problems. Dental lasers can be used to remove pseudo pockets and provide patients with better access to improve their oral health regimen.

Lasers represent an innovative and more precise technology for specific hard and soft tissue applications. Choosing a  laser dentist can make you feel more comfortable and less anxious during your treatments.

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