Laser dentistry may seem like advanced technology, but dentists have long been enjoying its benefits. From gum disease treatment to laser root canal therapy, dental lasers have definitely found a home in the dentist's office.
A dental laser isn't as scary as you might imagine. It's actually a fairly compact device that generates a precise beam of concentrated light energy via a very narrow fiber optic cord. When the light beam enters the targeted tissue, it "cuts" it away, essentially vaporizing it while leaving the surrounding area intact. The beam also sterilizes the area and coagulates blood vessels, which minimizes infection and bleeding. All this without the annoying sound of a drill or the pain of an incision!
Diode Lasers at a Glance
Laser dentistry relies on several types of lasers, including those used for hard tissue (like teeth) and those used for soft tissue (like gums). One type of dental laser used specifically for cutting soft tissues in the mouth is called a diode laser. A diode laser can be used to correct a wide variety of dental problems including:
Canker Sores -- Diode lasers can almost immediately reduce the pain of a canker sore breakout. Lasers can even reduce the recurrence of future breakouts.
Gum Disease -- Diode lasers are used to remove diseased tissue and reshape the gums. The result is easier access to certain parts of the gum for improved oral hygiene.
Gum Reshaping -- A diode laser can be used in soft tissue crown lengthening to reshape the gums and expose healthier tooth structure. This provides a stronger base for restorations such as a dental crown. The laser can also be used cosmetically to reshape the gum line and create a more balanced smile.
Laser Root Canal Therapy -- The diode laser produces enough heat and pressure to melt away the infection within a tooth's root without using drills or hand files.
Soft Tissue Care - Diode lasers are used to prevent gum disease from occurring in the first place. Diode lasers can remove tooth decay on the surface of a tooth's root by removing the gum covering it up. The diode laser helps decontaminate deep gingival pockets that harbor the bacteria that can cause gum disease. And because the diode laser beam kills bacteria, it is also often used to sterilize areas of the mouth before or during treatment for cavities or a root canal.
If you undergo a dental treatment involving a diode laser, your dentist should provide you with glasses to protect your eyes from the laser's rays. Healing time is often shorter and less complicated than with traditional techniques. These procedures are also much less invasive, usually achieving the same results without pain, bleeding or stitches. In fact, many patients undergo diode laser treatments without the use of local anesthesia.
Catch the Wave
Laser dentistry hasn't caught on everywhere just yet. Not all dentists have dental lasers in their office or are trained in using the technology. And treatment with diode lasers is not usually covered by dental insurance plans, making it a potentially expensive choice. But dental lasers do offer you a nearly pain-free way to undergo several dental treatments. Less pain may mean less dental anxiety overall and a better chance that you'll seek care in the future. Regular dental visits and good oral hygiene will help keep your teeth -- and you -- in good health.