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Lasers provide a simple, precise and safe method of treating all sorts of dental conditions, including:
- Tooth decay – compared to traditional drilling, lasers provide a more precise and painless way of removing tooth decay. Lasers are also used to prepare enamel ready to receive fillings and can harden the filling material.
- Gum disease – during root canal procedures, lasers provide an accurate method of reshaping gums and removing bacteria.
- Biopsy and tissue removal – lasers provide a more efficient method of removing tissue for biopsies compared to the traditional scalpel. They are also used to remove lesions and treat canker sores.
- Teeth whitening – lasers accelerate the peroxide used to whiten teeth, activating it with a gentle heat that reduces the procedure time for the patient.
In short, lasers deliver high energy light. Laser is actually an acronym, which stands for: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In dental procedures, the laser can be used to cut or vaporise tissue or provide a heat source to harden materials or activate chemical. Lasers are incredibly precise, even compared to the best dental surgeon. When used to remove tooth decay, this precision means the amount of healthy tooth material removed is reduced. Furthermore, laser technology often causes less pain than traditional drilling or cutting, so reduces the need for anaesthetics. Lasers are also silent, especially compared to drills and other equipment, so they cause less anxiety in nervous patients. Lasers used in surgical procedures also produce less blood and swelling, which can increase healing times and reduce the need for sutures. Laser treatment also reduces the risk of infection and minimises the damage to surrounding tissue.
The only problems with laser technology is that lasers can’t be used on teeth where there is a filling in place and they also can’t replace all mechanical tools; even when using a laser, a dentist may still have to use a drill or other tools to accompany the laser.
Types of laser
Dentists use two types of laser: the Erbium Laser, used on hard tissue, such as teeth, and the Carbon Dioxide Laser, used on soft tissue. The Erbium Laser can precisely remove tooth tissue without the need for anything other than the laser to touch the tooth. Because of the heat of the laser, it sterilises the cavity and seals the interior of the tooth, which reduces the risks of infection and minimises the potential for complications to arise. Compared to drilling, Erbium Lasers are virtually silent and can also be painless, removing the need to inject the patient with anaesthetic.
The Carbon Dioxide Laser can cut through soft tissue without causing any bleeding, as the laser seals the blood vessels and encourages clotting, removing the need for stitching. It is also relatively painless, so reduces the need to anaesthetise the patient. Furthermore, laser surgery causes less inflammation and swelling, which decreases recovery time.
Lasers produce less scar tissue and kill bacteria, so there is less chance of a patient receiving an infection caused by contamination. Furthermore, because of their precision, lasers can be used to treat certain conditions earlier than other dental procedures. In recent years, new techniques using lasers have been developed to treat sensitive teeth and ulcers, and they are increasingly used in treating gum disease and in root canal procedures.