The word “laser” often conjures up images of huge equipment that can blast powerful beams of light into space or weapons of choice for movie bad guys. Yet, lasers are used in appliances as common as CD players, levels, and home hair removal kits. And they are a valuable tool in dentistry.
What is Laser Dentistry?
Laser dentistry is the use of lasers in dental procedures. Lasers deliver energy in the form of light. Light travels at different wavelengths and is absorbed by specific objects. In dentistry, these objects include enamel, decayed tissue, gum tissue, or whitening enhancers. Each object absorbs a different light wavelength and reflects the rest. So, different lasers are used for different procedures.
Benefits of Laser Dentistry
Laser dental procedures are much less invasive than traditional dentistry. First, the precision of laser beams means that areas of your mouth can be treated with almost no physical contact from the dentist. That’s much more comfortable than keeping your jaws wide open for long periods of time to allow a pair of hands to reach your back teeth.
Also, because objects reflect whatever light wavelengths they don’t absorb, objects (tissues) around the target site are not affected by laser dental procedures. So, if you are having diseased tissue removed to treat periodontitis, for example, there’s no risk that your tooth enamel will be chipped or weakened. Limiting the affected areas of each dental procedure also lessens the discomfort during recovery time.
Uses of Laser Dentistry
Laser dentistry has drastically improved gum care. Lasers can be used to:
- Remove excess or diseased tissue associated with the use of certain medications or periodontal disease
- Remove bacteria in periodontal pockets to speed recovery and prevent infection
- Reshape gums for cosmetic effects
- Lengthen crowns (by removing gum and bone tissue to expose more tooth)
- Treat periodontal disease
Lasers can be used for other soft-tissue applications like:
- Minor growth excisions
- Frenectomies (the frenum is a small muscle attachment under the lips)
- Apthous ulcer (canker sore) treatment (the laser relieves the discomfort of the ulcer)
- Cold sore treatment
Even teeth whitening involves lasers. The Zoom! whitening system uses a gel that is activated by light to produce its dramatic results.