In laser dentistry, lasers are used to remove or alter hard and soft tissues in a variety of dental procedures. While lasers were introduced to the dental marketplace decades ago, they are not considered the mainstream in dentistry. Read on to discover the types of lasers used in dentistry and what procedures may involve lasers.
What Is Laser Dentistry?
There are more than 20 uses of lasers in dentistry that have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Most commonly, lasers are used in procedures involving soft tissues in the mouth like the gums. The lasers often used for these purposes are the diode laser, the carbon dioxide laser and the Nd :YAG laser.
Lasers can cut and remove soft gum tissue, making them useful in procedures, such as creating a trough around the gum for improved visibility and dental access and reshaping the gums for aesthetic purposes. Sometimes lasers are used to remove excess gum tissue and release overly tight muscle attachments in the mouth or treat oral ulcers and cold sores. Laser therapy can also treat periodontal disease, or gum infection, by removing the infected lining of gum tissue around the teeth and supporting the regeneration of healthy gum tissue.
According to the American Association of Periodontology, it is unclear if laser treatment is superior to traditional treatment of periodontal diseases. That being said, there are some advantages to laser therapy for soft tissues. Laser treatment may reduce bleeding during and after surgical procedures, cause less discomfort (and subsequently reduce the need for anesthesia) and reduce swelling. On the other hand, in some cases, laser treatment may delay healing and cause discoloration of the tissue.
Hard tissue lasers are used to cut "hard" tissues in the mouth, such as the teeth. They primarily include the Er :YAG and the Er ,Cr :YSGG lasers. These lasers can help remove tooth decay, prepare cavities for filling placement, prepare a tooth for a root canal and etch the tooth enamel so a filling can bond to it.
Lasers designed for hard tissue purposes may reduce the need for anesthesia and reduce the chance of overheating parts of the tooth like the pulp, the tooth's nerve tissue. However, hard tissue lasers may also extend the time needed for treatment due to the precise nature of laser cutting and may have inconsistent results.
Lasers may be used in a number of other dental procedures, including laser teeth whitening, setting restorative materials, such as crowns or fillings, and detecting tooth decay. Bearing in mind that the ADA has never included laser education in its accreditation standards for dental education programs, dentists need to seek training in the use of lasers from continuing education programs or manufacturers. Before considering any type of dental laser therapy, speak with your dentist to determine if laser treatment is right for you.