The role and use of lasers in dentistry has grown considerably in the last few decades. Below is a brief description of how they are utilized at Inspire Dental of Maine.
There are different types of lasers, for different applications. We use an "ErYAG" type laser, which denotes that its "lasing medium" is erbium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet. Without getting too technical, this type of laser produces specific wavelengths of light (2940 nm), which makes it ideal for "hard tissue" (teeth) applications, because this wavelength resonates very strongly with water (and to a much lesser extent hydroxyapatite, the mineral which teeth are largely comprised of). Why does this matter? Because the components of healthy teeth are mostly mineral and very little water; whereas tooth-decay and bacteria are mostly water. So, whereas a traditional dental bur does not discriminate, cutting whatever it touches, a laser does! An ErYAG laser will provide a more conservative preparation, preferentially removing more of the bad stuff (killing harmful bacteria and ablating tooth decay) while preserving more of the good stuff, like healthy dentin and enamel.
There are other benefits as well. Perhaps foremost in the minds of our patients, is that we can provide most (though not all) fillings without the need for injection of local anesthetic. No-needle, no-shot fillings may be the advantage of dental lasers that patients appreciate the most! It is thought that pain from dental work occurs through heat build-up from friction of a bur cutting a tooth. Because a laser removes decayed tissue without friction, most fillings can be done pain-free, without injections. There are exceptions, such as when the tooth is already sensitive to cold air/water or if the decay extends very deep, near to the nerves (tooth pulp) or if we are removing a old, broken down metal filling... we may sometimes still need to give an injection and perform the procedure through traditional methods. However, a majority of the restorations at our office do not require a shot.
Using a dental laser for cavity preparations also eliminates vibrations experienced with a traditional dental handpiece/drill.
There are also significant time savings for patients through use of the laser in dentistry. For example, we do not have to wait for the anesthetic injection to take effect and thus your time in the chair is often decreased. Another example, if you require four fillings, each one in a different corner of your mouth, we would normally break this into 2-4 appointments because we not want to get your your entire mouth numb all at once. With a laser in contrast, we can complete "four-quadrant dentistry" in a single visit, when the work does not require anesthetic injection.
Advances in laser technology are changing the way that patients experience treatment as well as the ways that dental problems are being resolved. Lasers provide more efficient, more comfortable and more predictable outcomes for patients.
- Dr. Ambrose Chan