In recent years, lasers have become a helpful tool in several areas of dentistry. In some ways lasers are a victim of their own hype: advertisers have made claims about dental lasers that just aren’t realistic. But used appropriately, they can assist us in providing better care in some areas. We employ several different types of lasers to accomplish different things.
A laser will deliver energy to a target tissue in the form of light. Depending on the intended result, we will use different lasers and different wavelengths. In dentistry, these targets can be soft tissue, decayed tooth structure, infected tooth/bone, disinfecting chemicals, or whitening enhancers. Each one absorbs a different wavelength of light while reflecting others.
Soft tissue procedures
If we have to cut soft tissue, for example to let a tooth grow in easier or free up a “tongue-tied” child, a laser can be a way to do so with almost no bleeding, and very little post-operative pain or swelling. Trimming the edge of the gums around a tooth for aesthetics is another handy use–this is probably the most common day-to-day use in our centre.
Certain lasers can be used to aid in cleaning decay out of teeth, and killing off any bacteria still inside the tooth structure. In some applications they can be used to cure the tooth-coloured filling materials we use.
In some in-office whitening procedures, we can activate the whitening chemical with a special light or laser to speed up the process.
Treating gum disease
Certain lasers can be useful in killing bacteria in infected pockets around the teeth, particularly when combined with specific, laser-activated antibacterial chemicals. This process is called “photodynamic disinfection” or PDD. This was more popular in the 1990s and 2000s, but less so now, although it is still a handy tool for specific cases. Lasers can also stimulate reattachment of gum tissue in some situations.
Whenever you are in to see us and we make you wear the special yellow sunglasses, you’ll know we are using a laser of some kind. Please ask and we’ll be glad to explain how we are using it as part of your care.