The term LASER is an acronym for ‘Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. This technology came into being as early as the 1960s and was introduced to the dental industry too. Theodre Maiman was the introducer of this technology. He mixed neon with helium in order to give birth to the technology.
So, how does the laser technology work for your dentist?
The thin and concentrated beam of light emitted by the Laser instrument is the primary tool in the hands of your dentist. Since light emitted is calculated in wavelengths, dentists are able to determine the exact amount of laser to be applied. One wavelength generates a certain amount of thermal output. According to the particular tissue on which the beam is to be applied, the extent of laser is to be determined. Some wavelengths are more conducive to performing certain procedures than others. For instance, there are particular lasers for soft tissue surgeries while others are effective on hard tissues like your tooth enamel or your jaw bone.
The use of LASER technology in the dental industry is a subject of continuous research and advancement. In the dental world, uses of LASER are many. They can be categorized based upon:
- the lasing medium used, such as, gas laser and solid laser
- the tissue applicability, hard tissue and soft tissue lasers
Let us take a glimpse into the different types of laser applications in the dental industry:
- Carbon-di-oxide Laser
Since CO2 laser has a very high affinity for water, it causes rapid soft tissue removal and hemostasis. The depth of penetration is also very less. Disadvantages of the CO2 laser include
Its relative large size and
High cost that might be unaffordable to many and
Hard tissue destructive interactions.
- Neodymium Yttrium Aluminum Garnet Lasers
This wavelength is highly absorbed by pigmented tissue. Therefore, quite obviously it is effective for cutting and coagulating dental soft tissues, with good hemostasis. In addition to its surgical applications, research in the concerned field has confirmed that this laser is as well useful for nonsurgical purposes concerning periodontal disease control.
- Erbium Laser
The erbium wavelengths are known to have a high affinity for hydroxyapatite. Also it has the highest absorption of water compared to any dental laser wavelengths. This makes it the best LASER choice for treatment of dental hard tissues. Since dental soft tissues also have a high percentage of water, the erbium lasers could also be used for soft tissue ablation as well.
- Diode Laser
The diode laser is basically semiconducting medium made of aluminum, gallium, arsenide, and occasionally indium. They are capable of producing wavelengths, ranging from approximately 810 nm to 980 nm. These diode wavelengths are absorbed by tissue pigment (melanin) and hemoglobin. On the contrary, they are poorly absorbed by the hydroxyapatite and water present in the enamel. Accordingly, certain procedures like aesthetic gingival re-contouring, soft tissue crown lengthening, etc. are performed with the aid of diode lasers
A list of common uses of Dental Lasers
Simply put, when dental lasers are being discussed, a number of its uses in this particular medical field can be listed down. Since the light emitted serves both the purposes of removing or shaping tissue, a number functions are actually performed.
- Removing as well as reshaping bone and gum tissues during the crown lengthening procedures
- Removing muscle attachments which are responsible for restricting tongue or lip movements
- Speeding up the in-office tooth whitening procedures
- Reducing the discomfort caused by cold sores and cankers
- Removing small layers of tooth enamel while say, applying veneers
- Preparing your tooth enamel for composite bonding
- Repairing certain worn-down fillings from your cavities
According to a study published in the National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, titled Laser in dentistry: An innovative tool in modern dental practice...
In the last two decades, there has been an explosion of research studies in laser application. In hard tissue application, the laser is used for caries prevention, bleaching, restorative removal and curing, cavity preparation, dentinal hypersensitivity, growth modulation and for diagnostic purposes, whereas soft tissue application includes wound healing, removal of hyperplastic tissue to uncovering of impacted or partially erupted tooth, photodynamic therapy for malignancies, photostimulation of herpetic lesion. Use of the laser proved to be an effective tool to increase efficiency, specificity, ease, and cost and comfort of the dental treatment.
Cited: Verma SK, Maheshwari S, Singh RK, Chaudhari PK. Laser in dentistry: An innovative tool in modern dental practice. Natl J Maxillofac Surg. 2012;3(2):124–132. doi:10.4103/0975-5950.111342
Efficacy and safety of Laser use in dentistry
One safety concern related to the use of lasers is, protecting your eyes from the laser beam. Usually dentists always give you a pair of special glasses to wear during the procedure. In case, it is missed do not forget to ask for one.
Now, the use of Lasers in the dental field has been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the ADA’s (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance is yet to come. Unless that arrives, it does not ensure dentists that the required standards of efficacy and safety are met. Therefore, despite being in the industry for decades now, the Laser Technology is still not much talked about in the dental world. However, dentists have been successfully using this advanced mechanism to deliver patients with pain-free, hassle-free treatments as far as feasible.