Lasers are a modern technology that generates intense beams of light that pack a lot of energy a narrow beam. Medical and dental lasers mostly do their work by heating materials in a narrow band to the point where they “cook” or even vaporize. Lasers deliver their energy so fast and precisely that material on either side of the work area remains cool. This makes them extremely useful for precise cutting or removal of material.
Dental lasers were introduced in the 1990s. They come in two basic categories: Hard Tissue Lasers are tuned to affect only the materials in teeth – thus they can be used (for example) in place of the traditional dental drill to remove decayed material and prepare teeth for restorations. Soft Tissue Lasers are tuned to affect the gums or the mucosal lining of the mouth. This makes them useful for gum reshaping, lesion removal, and killing off the bacteria responsible for periodontal (gum) disease.
Hard Tissue (Tooth) Lasers
Lasers have several advantages over the traditional dental drill:
- They produce less heat so there is a reduced need for traditional anesthetic.
- They’re quieter and vibrate much less.
- Tooth reduction is kept to a minimum.
- The laser creates a highly effective bonding surface on the tooth.
- Without anesthetic, we can work in multiple areas of your mouth in a single visit.
How we use hard tissue lasers: We carefully move the laser over the damaged or decayed portion of your teeth. We use a water spray to cool the teeth we are treating. After preparation, teeth are usually restored with one of the modern white filling materials that can be bonded to the teeth.
With the hard tissue laser, we can remove some kinds of old fillings (not amalgams), repair cavities, and prepare teeth for bonding. It allows us to remove the smallest amount of tooth structure and place strong, natural looking restorations in the shortest amount of time.
Soft Tissue (Gum) Lasers
Lasers are particularly useful for treating gum and soft tissue problems that would otherwise require traditional surgery using scalpels and other cutting instruments. The benefits of laser treatment include:
- faster healing
- less bleeding
- reduced swelling
These benefits derive from the heating effect of the laser. While it is cutting, the laser is simultaneously cauterizing (sealing) the microscopic blood vessels that would otherwise leak fluid into the treated area.
How we use soft tissue lasers: Depending on patient sensitivity and/or the kind of procedure we’re doing, we may numb the area we’ll work on with a local anesthetic. We then sweep the gentle beam over the affected area. The narrow beam only removes a specific number of cell layers on each pass, so we have precise control over the procedure.
Lasers can be used in a wide range of procedures, including:
- cosmetic gum recontouring to reduce that “gummy” smile
- lesion removal (benign tumors and other growths)
- treatment of gum disease
- removal of excess gum tissue
- gum surgery
In sum, dental lasers are an effective modern technology that allow us to work faster and exercise more precise control over procedures. The result is faster healing and less pain for you.
For the Technically Minded – A Bit More Detail about Lasers
Cutting lasers deliver high energy concentrations because they generate coherent light.
Coherence means the energy is delivered in a narrow band of wavelengths – similar to the way an FM radio station broadcasts at a specific wavelength, rather than spreading its energy across the dial. This is very different from white light (like sunlight) which contains a broad spectrum of wavelengths. This is demonstrated every time we see a rainbow; raindrops act like tiny prisms and spread out the sunlight into its component wavelengths, which our eyes perceive as colors.
The great advantage of coherence lies in the way materials respond to lasers of different wavelengths. When visible light is absorbed by a material (as opposed to being reflected), the material heats up – think of the way an asphalt road warms up under sunlight. The light is agitating the atoms that make up the material; their vibration is what we perceive as heat. Cutting lasers deliver light that isn’t just all one color – it’s all one shade of color. Another way of putting this is that almost all the energy of the laser is delivered at one specific wavelength. Different materials heat up to a different extent when hit by lasers of different wavelengths. This is what allows medical and dental lasers to be “tuned” to particular tissues. They will heat only those tissues while leaving other kinds unaffected.
Hard tissue lasers have a wavelength that is highly absorbed by the calcium and other hard materials in teeth. Soft tissue lasers, on the other hand, are tuned to wavelengths that are readily absorbed by watery materials. (Gums and the mucosal lining of the mouth contain lots of water!)
Periodontal Disease: Infection in the Gums
Periodontal disease starts off with plaque, a sticky film on the teeth that eventually hardens, forming deposits called tartar or calculus. These deposits harbor bacteria which infect the gums. In early stages this is called gingivitis. The main symptom is red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. Many people experience bad breath and an unpleasant taste as well. Unchecked, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, a much more serious form of the disease in which “pockets” form, separating teeth from gums and supporting bone structure. Without treatment, infection worsens and the pockets deepen, resulting in tooth loss.
Conventional Treatment for Periodontal Disease
The way to repair the damage is to get rid of the infection and close up the pockets. Various surgical treatment options have been available for many years. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of disease, the depth of the pockets, and the degree of bone loss around the teeth. While these conventional surgical options have been effective for many people, they have drawbacks – not least among them, post-operative pain and extended healing time. Also, conventional surgical treatments often do not totally eliminate the bacteria that cause the infection. Recurrence of disease has been a problem.
Laser Treatment: Less Pain, More Gain
Periodontal laser treatment employs an extremely fine laser probe that allows us to go below the gum line to vaporize calculus deposits, kill off bacteria, and leave behind clean surfaces that encourage natural regrowth and reattachment of gums to teeth.
In our hands the laser used by Silver Dental has proven extremely effective in:
- Stopping the infection
- Eliminating the bacteria completely
- Reducing pockets as effectively as conventional treatments
- Maintaining good results over time
And, because the laser used by Silver Dental is very selective in its effects, there are:
- No incisions
- No stitches
- No post-operative bleeding
- No swelling
- Little or no pain
- No gum recession
If you’ve been told you need conventional surgery for periodontal gum disease, consider a consultation with Silver Dental. You may be able to achieve better results with less pain by choosing laser treatment. And, laser treatment costs no more than conventional surgery.
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