The Future of Dental Lasers
Dental procedures may soon be performed quicker, more effectively and more comfortably thanks to the growing popularity of laser dentistry. Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) technology has been used in various types of medical procedures for years. An increasing number of dental offices around the world will use dental lasers as the technology continues to improve and its cost decreases.
Dentists may use dental lasers during a professional dental cleaning to remove tartar and as a replacement for the traditional root planing procedure, which is currently performed using a surgical instrument called a curette that can damage surrounding tissue. Eventually, dental lasers could make it possible for dentists to access any part of a tooth, replacing the need for the traditional dental drill. This may help to relieve the fear and anxiety many people experience when they go to the dentist.
Types of Dental Lasers
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved of a variety of hard and soft tissue lasers for use in the dental treatment of adults and children. Because dental lasers boast unique absorption characteristics, they are used to perform specific dental procedures.
- Hard Tissue Lasers: Hard tissue lasers have a wavelength that is highly absorbable by hydroxyapatite (calcium phosphate salt found in bone and teeth) and water, making them more effective for cutting through tooth structure. Hard tissue lasers include the Erbium YAG and the Erbium chromium YSGG.
The primary use of hard tissue lasers is to cut into bone and teeth with extreme precision. Hard tissue lasers are often used in the "prepping" or "shaping" of teeth for composite bonding, the removal of small amounts of tooth structure and the repair of certain worn down dental fillings.
- Soft Tissue Lasers: Soft tissue lasers boast a wavelength that is highly absorbable by water and hemoglobin (oxygenating protein in red blood cells), making them more effective for soft tissue management. Commonly used soft tissue lasers include Neodymium YAG (Nd:YAG) and diode lasers, which may be used as a component of periodontal treatment and have the ability to kill bacteria and activate the re-growth of tissues. The carbon-dioxide laser minimizes damage to surrounding tissue and removes tissue faster than the fiber optic method.
Soft tissue lasers penetrate soft tissue while sealing blood vessels and nerve endings. This is the primary reason why many people experience virtually no postoperative pain following the use of a laser. Also, soft tissue lasers allow tissues to heal faster. It is for this reason that a growing number of cosmetic dental practices are incorporating the use of soft tissue lasers for gingival sculpting procedures.
Some dental laser technology has been developed that can be used to generate both hard and soft tissue laser energy, depending upon the patient's needs.
In addition to the lasers used for cutting and shaping hard and soft tissues, other laser types are specifically designed for viewing the insides of teeth and cells using Optical Coherence Tomography, a non-invasive imaging technique. Other lasers provide energy and specific proteins that help move messages between cells to match the body's natural ability to use light spectrums to heal damaged cells.
Consult the Academy of Laser Dentistry for more information about the types and benefits of procedures performed in laser dentistry.
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