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What Is Laser Dentistry?

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For many, a trip to the dentist is commonly associated with the use of equipment such as dentist drills. While surgical equipment of this nature continues to be widely used, many dentists also include the use of lasers for a range of different treatments. 

Lasers are concentrated beams of light created through a process called optical amplification.  While light emitted by an electrical bulb emits multiple wavelengths, a laser only has one focused wavelength, which can be used in varying sizes, colours, shapes and power levels for a variety of purposes.

How are lasers used in dentistry?

This form of technology can also be applied to a number of non-cosmetic and cosmetic dental solutions. There are two basic types of dental laser: hard tissue lasers, which can be used to cut through solid tissues such as teeth and soft tissue lasers, which are used for soft tissues such as the gums. Dental treatments using laser can help with a range of issues, including:

  • Repairing worn-down fillings
  • Removal of small amounts of enamel to prepare for composite bonding
  • Removing or reshaping gum tissue
  • Removing muscle attachments restricting lip or tongue movement
  • Removing tissue surrounding an exposed wisdom tooth
  • Removing and reshaping bone and gum tissue in crown-lengthening procedures
  • Speeding up in-office whitening procedures

Lasers can also be used as a potentially more comfortable method of treatment to treat a range of common dental problems, such as hypersensitivity, gum disease and tooth decay, through using lasers to detect cavities. 

What are the benefits of dental lasers?

Some experience anxiety or phobias related to the dentist. While conditions like these are best addressed with a licenced mental health professional, laser dentistry is often quieter and less painful than traditional procedures, which could offer some relief for those with dentophobia.

Other benefits to laser dentistry include a reduced likelihood of pain, bleeding, infection or damage to surrounding tissue, as well as a relatively quicker healing period post-procedure. In some cases, it can even reduce the need for anaesthesia.

What are the disadvantages?

While laser dental procedures can be beneficial, their use depends on the existing condition of the teeth and gums. For example, they cannot be used on teeth with certain types of filling (such as metal amalgam), inter-dental cavities or damaged bridges or crowns. Lasers also pose a risk to eyesight, which is why dental laser safety glasses should always be available to patients undergoing this form of treatment.

As with all forms of dental procedures, there is also a risk of injury, such as injured tooth pulp from use of hard lasers or gum injury. While these are comparatively small, it is still important when seeking dental treatment to look for a licensed and qualified dental professional to ensure maximum safety.

Are lasers better than traditional dental methods?

While lasers have been used in dentistry for many years (and are also approved by the FDA to treat several types of conditions), they have yet to be approved by the ADA (American Dental Association), although they remain optimistic about the potential for their use.

Laser equipment can also be expensive, preventing some dentists from investing in this technology, yet while traditional methods are still in use, lasers could be the future of dental procedures, and as time goes on, they may become more common.

Samantha Green, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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