James Bond, Star Trek, Star Wars. We’ve grown up seeing lasers as technology of the future or science fiction, but they are real and their use is changing many areas of our lives as we know it. One of these areas is the health field, specifically dentistry, where their use has led to great advancements in treatment outcomes and comfort.
One of the main uses of lasers is in the treatment of gum disease. A very specific wavelength can be used that is powerful enough to remove diseased tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact. This is done in conjunction with traditional treatment methods to improve periodontal health. One of the biggest benefits to the patient is that, in many cases, painful gum surgery can be eliminated. With the zap of a laser, bacteria and diseased tissue are removed, and the patient feels virtually nothing. Removing bacteria and diseased tissue improves both the quality as well as speed of healing.
It is not just useful in periodontal deep cleaning though. A laser can also be used before regular routine cleanings so that bacteria below the gum line are killed. Doing so leads to a healthier mouth as these bacteria contribute to conditions such as gingivitis.
Another promising use of lasers is in the treatment of aggressive and advanced periodontal disease around teeth and implants. Advanced periodontal disease is an inflammation and severe bone loss around the teeth. Traditionally, once the bone is lost, there is no way to get it back and, if the bone loss has progressed enough, the teeth have to be extracted. With the use of specific lasers, a new procedure termed LANAP or LAPIP has shown promise in stimulating the re-growth of bone around teeth and implants. It is now possible to save teeth that previously would have had to be extracted.
Maybe the most exciting news to most dental patients is the increased use of hard tissue lasers. These can be used as an alternative to a drill in some types of dental procedures. Because the laser vaporizes the tissue rather than cutting it, often times a filling can be done with no anesthesia and no pain. Often the patient’s biggest fear of the dentist is the numbing injection. With the use of a hard tissue laser, this can be avoided.
Overall, technology has allowed the health field to advance at an amazing pace, and dentistry is no different. Patient comfort, minimal invasiveness, and ideal treatment outcomes are our ultimate goals and lasers help us to achieve these, in many cases better than traditional options. Many people are just unaware of these treatment options, so it’s best to talk to your health care provider to see if lasers can be used to help you have a comfortable, quick, and successful experience on your next trip to the dentist.
Dr. Baumann is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.