Lasers were first used commercially in clinical dental practices in 1989. Since then, laser dentistry has become a popular treatment solution for several dental procedures involving hard and soft tissues, offering an alternative to drills and other traditional tools.
Are you thinking about getting dental laser treatment? Here’s what you need to know about how lasers are transforming restorative dentistry.
What Is Laser Dentistry?
LASER is short for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In laser dentistry procedures, the laser device creates light energy in a narrow and concentrated beam. When the light hits the target tissue, it produces a reaction that allows it to shape or remove tissue.
All lasers (both soft tissue and hard tissue lasers) work by delivering energy in the form of light. When used for surgical dental procedures, the laser acts as a cutting instrument and removes tissue that it comes in contact with. In the case of teeth whitening procedures, the laser acts as a source of heat that enhances the efficacy of tooth-bleaching agents.
Are Dental Lasers Safe?
Safety is a common concern for most people who are considering laser treatment for the first time. It is important to note that the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved lasers sold in the United States. However, no laser treatment has a Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA). That said, the ADA states that it is cautiously optimistic about the role of laser technology in dentistry. Additionally, dentists undergo specific training for each dental laser device. Therefore, be sure to confirm that your dentist has the necessary training to operate the laser device for your specific dental procedure.
Uses of Laser in Restorative Dentistry
Laser dentistry encompasses treatments for several oral health issues. Laser dentistry is used in a variety of procedures, including:
- Reshaping gum tissue
- Removing tissue around an exposed wisdom tooth
- Extracting inflamed gum tissue
- Taking away small amounts of tooth enamel
- Eliminating muscle attachments that restrict tongue or lip movement
- Repairing certain worn down fillings
- Repairing tooth enamel for composite bonding
- Accelerating in-office tooth whitening procedures
What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Lasers in Dentistry?
Many patients find dental visits nerve-racking due to the drilling sound associated with many dental procedures. Because laser dentistry tools are generally quieter than traditional treatment options, they may provide a more comfortable experience for patients who are uncomfortable with dental drills. In addition, dental lasers:
- May result in less pain and thus reduce the need for anesthesia.
- May help ease dental anxiety.
- May promote healthier teeth during cavity removal.
- Can reduce bleeding and swelling during soft tissue treatments.
Although lasers have been widely accepted as a positive advancement in dental treatments, they have some shortcomings. For example, dental lasers:
- Cannot be used on teeth that already have fillings.
- Do not completely eliminate the need for anesthesia.
- May be more expensive than traditional treatment options.
- Cannot be used in many common dental procedures, such as filling cavities between teeth or preparing large cavities for crowns.
- May require the use of traditional drills to shape and finalize certain restorative treatments, such as fillings.
Although laser treatments will not completely replace traditional dentistry, their use has greatly increased the number of treatment options available to dentists and patients alike. If you have any questions regarding the use of lasers in restorative dentistry, talk to your dentist to learn more.