These days, lasers are everywhere – you’ll find them at the supermarket when you check out with your groceries, inside your DVD player, in your laptop, and probably in various sorts of equipment in your workplace. Another area in which lasers are becoming more and more common is in the field of dentistry. It’s very likely that in the not-too-distant future, you could have a dental procedure like, for instance, preparing a tooth for a filling, done using a finely controlled laser beam instead of that nasty drill that all patients hate.
We’re not quite there yet, but in the meantime, dentists are using lasers for other purposes. One area in which dentists employ laser technology is in detecting and treating oral diseases. They’re useful in identifying the early stages of tooth decay and oral cancer, and also in the treatment of gum disease. Because of the incredible precision that is possible with lasers, tissue can be removed, canker sores and other ulcerations can be sealed, and small cavities can even be corrected. There’s no doubt that even more innovations will happen in the future, as dental laser technology continues to develop.
How Do They Work?
Lasers make use of the quantum behavior of those microscopic particles inside atoms, called electrons. The atoms are stimulated using pulses of energy, and then amplified optically so that they produce a beam of light. This light packs a huge amount of energy, yet it’s possible to control with a high degree of precision. It’s this marriage of precision and concentrated energy that makes lasers so amazingly useful.
How Are They Used?
In dentistry, right now lasers are used for three main purposes: detecting disease, treating soft tissue, and treating hard tissue.
The ways in which lasers can help with diagnosis are many and varied. As an example, a specific wavelength of light can identify tiny fissures and depressions in the biting surface of a tooth that can’t be found using traditional tools. This means that problems that are too small to be treated can be monitored to see how they develop, and then they can be treated at the earliest possible time. Lasers can also help find tartar that’s located beneath the surface area of the gums, and can even help with the early identification of oral cancer by pinpointing where diseased tissue begins to overtake healthy tissue.
When it comes to treating problems with soft tissue, lasers have a number of advantages over traditional tools. Laser treatment is minimally invasive, so when treatment is needed, usually less tissue has to be removed than if conventional methods were used. For example, when lasers are used for gum surgery, it’s possible to kill undesirable bacteria that live below the gum line, and avoid harming healthy tissue in the process of removing the diseased tissue. It’s also possible to take away the layer of cells that interferes with bone and gum tissues re-attaching to the tooth, and to seal off blood vessels. This way, there is usually less pain, and minimal bleeding. Lasers are also highly effective in correcting sores or ulcers on the gums and lips.
Lasers are also coming into their own in treating hard-tissue problems like cavities and caries. They allow for more precision when it comes to removing material, and they also don’t make any noise – many patients find that the noise of the dental drill is more distressing to them than what is actually being done with it.
It’s expected that in the years to come, lasers will become ubiquitous in dental offices – used in a number of routine treatments. Already, laser technology is providing significant benefits to dental patients, and the technology can only be expected to improve and increase.
Text Copyright © 2015 Louis K. Cheung DDS PS – All rights reserved. Images used under license from Dear Doctor, Inc.