What is Laser Dentistry and Who Needs It?

Laser dentistry started in the early 1990’s and have been used to treat several types of dental conditions. The FDA has approved the use of lasers in dentistry, but the American Dental Association (ADA) has not yet approved them as an alternative treatment option. The ADA does however, state that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the use of laser technology in dentistry.

What do dentists treat with lasers?

Many dentists do still use lasers to treat dental problems like:

  • Teeth Whitening: Lasers can significantly speed up many of the in-office procedures used for whitening teeth. Laser energy can speed up the process of the peroxide bleaching solution that is used.
  • Gum Disease: Lasers can effectively be used to remove bacteria from gums during root canal therapy and can be used to reshape the gums or remove inflamed gum tissues to help treat gum disease.
  • Tooth Decay: Lasers can remove decay from inside a tooth and help prepare the enamel to receive fillings.
  • Biopsies or removal of lesions: Lasers effectively remove tissue to determine if cancer is present, this is a biopsy. They can also remove lesions in the mouth which can help provide some relief from pain associated with canker sores.

How do dental lasers work?

Every type of laser works by delivering light energy. Lasers used in dental and surgical procedures act like an instrument for cutting as it vaporizes the tissue it comes in contact with. When lasers are used for preparing a tooth to receive a filling, or curing the tooth, the laser works to create a strong bond between the tooth and the filling. When lasers are used in whitening procedures, lasers perform as a heat source and enhance the agents used in tooth bleaching.

Are there pros and cons for using lasers in the field of dentistry?

There are always pros and cons with procedures in the dental field.
Pros for lasers when compared with traditional drills:

  • Lasers are usually less painful and so less anesthesia is needed
  • Lasers can reduce patient’s anxiety commonly associated with drills
  • Lasers for soft tissue treatments don’t cause as much bleeding or swelling
  • Lasers can retain more of the healthy tooth with a cavity removal

Cons for the use of Lasers:

  • Lasers cannot be used on a tooth that already has a filling
  • Lasers are limited in their use – can’t be used around old fillings, between teeth, for teeth that need bridges or teeth that need a crown
  • Lasers do not totally eliminate the need for drills in some cases
  • Lasers do not totally eliminate some patient’s need for anesthesia
  • Laser treatments can be more expensive than traditional treatment options

How do I know if my dentist is qualified to use laser technology?

Just ask your dentist about what type of training and education he received in using lasers. There are some dental schools and associations which offer dental laser educational resources. Talk to your dentist about the use of lasers in your treatment, they should be able to tell you what types of treatments lasers are beneficial for, and when traditional procedures are more appropriate.