Swapping drills for lasers

Lasers making a trip to the dentist less painful

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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SAN JOSE, Cali. - The dental drill sends chills down your spine, but many dentists are swapping the drill for the laser. 

"They appreciate the fact that there's less pain, less swelling, and a quicker healing time," said Christine Hayashi, DDS, MS, Periodontist, Forest Periodontics, San Jose, CA.

Dental lasers, like the WaterLase, can be used for many dental procedures including filling cavities, performing root canals, and removing tooth or gum.

"For small procedures, in a few days you may not have even noticed that we did anything," Hayashi said.

Teeth contain water. When the laser makes contact with the tooth, it excites the water molecules to cut through it. The laser keeps the tooth hydrated and prevents heat, which means no pain.

The laser can be used to cut away a patient's gums. The tissue literally vaporizes with less bleeding, swelling, and damage to the surrounding area.

"I have receding gums," Teri Pesta said.

To fix Pesta's problem, her periodontist used a laser to transfer tissue and fill in sparse areas of gum. She had the procedure performed without the laser the first time and then with it.

"I would say this time there was absolutely no pain at all," Pesta said.

It's a technology that is changing the way dentists treat patients and the way patients feel about seeing their dentists.

Most dentists do not charge their patients any extra for using the laser. It actually saves them time because they can get through procedures more quickly.

Additional Information:

A typical dental checkup involves a careful inspection of your mouth, teeth, and gums, looking for any signs of gum disease, loose or broken teeth, a damaged tooth filling, or tooth decay. Your teeth will also be cleaned, polished, and flossed.  There is a strong relationship between your oral health and your overall health.  Bacteria from untreated gum disease can actually spread infection to other parts of your body. Pregnant women may be at a particular risk. Some neo-dental conditions have symptoms that appear in the mouth.  A dental exam can reveal signs of osteoporosis, vitamin deficiencies, or other serious conditions like oral cancer or diabetes.  (Source: http://www.1800dentist.com/regular-dental-visits/)

DENTAL ANXIETY VS. DENTAL PHOBIA:  Dental anxiety and phobia are very common.  It has been estimated that 9 to 15 percent of Americans avoid seeing the dentist because of fear and anxiety.  That is about 30 to 40 million people.  In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36 percent of those who didn't see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.  People with dental anxiety become uneasy when it is time for their appointments. They'll have exaggerated or unfounded worries or fears. Dental phobia is a more serious condition. It's an intense fear or dread. People with dental phobia aren't just anxious; they are terrified and can panic.  There are varying degrees of dental anxiety and phobia.  In extreme cases, a person with dental phobia may never see a dentist.  Others may face themselves to go, but they may not sleep the night before.  Dental phobia, like other mental disorders, can be treated.  Without treatment, dental phobia is likely to get worse over time. (Source: http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Checkups-and-Dental-Procedures/The-Dental-Visit/article/What-is-Dental-Anxiety-and-Phobia.cvsp)

DENTAL LASERS: Lasers are FDA approved, but no laser system has received the American Dental Association's (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.  The seal assures dentists that the product or device meets ADA standards of efficacy and safety, along with other things.  However, the ADA states that it is cautiously optimistic about the role of lasers in dentistry.  Lasers are now being used to treat tooth decay, gum disease, biopsy or lesion removal, and teeth whitening.  All lasers work by delivering energy in the form of light.  When used for "curing" a filling, the laser helps to strengthen the bond.. The advantages of using lasers over traditional drills are:

  • Less bleeding and swelling during soft tissue treatments
  • Reduction of pain
  • No need for anesthesia
  • Preservation of healthy tooth decay during cavity removal
  • Less anxiety

The disadvantages of lasers are that they can't be used on teeth with fillings already in place, traditional drills may still be needed to shape the filling, adjust the bite, and polish the filling, and lasers do not eliminate the need for anesthesia. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/laser-use-dentistry)

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