Lasers have been reported to work wonders in all aspects of modern medicine, including dentistry. While lasers offer a different twist to doing routine dental procedures and give the aura of “state-of-the-art technology,” they do not replace the traditional dental handpiece (“drill”) currently. Lasers can be used to perform soft tissue surgeries very well, and they can remove decay from teeth. However, they cannot remove old metal fillings, and they cannot prepare teeth for more advanced restorations like crowns. In my practice, we have used multiple types of lasers, including diode laser, a carbon dioxide laser, and an Nd:YGG laser. They are all useful for specific uses.
Essentially, a laser consists of a light source that generates a beam of light that is then amplified through mirrors or a can filled with some type of gas, which then is focused and aimed at the target to perform a specific purpose. The power of lasers comes from extremely amplified light, which is given off in the form of photons. There are different types of lasers, and they are used for many purposes such as reading digital data from CDs to changing the contours on eye lenses. In our practice, many of our patients have benefitted from the use of lasers to assist in reducing post-operative from surgical procedures.
One type of laser is very useful in diagnosing tooth decay in virgin teeth. An instrument is now available to be used at routine dental check-ups to quantify the presence of decay on teeth that would otherwise be “watched.” Small cavities can be monitored from visit-to-visit to see if the decay is advancing. If so, then a more educated decision can be made by both the dentist and the patient to restore the tooth or not.
For many dental practices, or at least in ours, dental lasers allow us to provide more comfortable care in many situations.