Laser Dentistry: Research Shows Laser Treatments Take the Pain Out of Dental Procedures by Dr. Marc Lazare
Treating cavities has long been a painful experience for many people. Most of us dread the injection and the drill when undergoing treatment for a cavity. But this now can be a thing of the past with pain-free laser treatment. Laser dentistry can treat gum diseases, canker sores, tooth decay and more. It poses as an excellent option for children who are highly prone to cavities and are afraid to undergo the traditional cavity treatment method.
How Does It Work?
Lasers fill cavities through the use of an invisible beam of light. Lasers are very precise and conservative. This means that there won’t be a loss of healthy teeth, which happens during drilling of the tooth in traditional methods of treatment. Some treatments like the WaterLase laser system, which is water-based, reduce pain further by keeping teeth hydrated during the procedure. In contrast to drills or needles, laser treatment uses light, air and water for cavity treatment.
Laser treatment can be effective and safe for both adults and children. When children have swollen gums because of braces, we can use lasers to treat the gums. In laser treatment of soft tissues, there is no need for sutures.
Short-pulsed carbon dioxide lasers have the capability to change the enamel chemical composition, making it more robust. Specialists deliver these lasers in microsecond pulses and the right wavelength. The lasers emit heat, which helps in changing the enamel top layer to hydroxyapatite from the normal carbonated hydroxyapatite. The new hydroxyapatite has a higher resistance to acid produced by bacteria. This acid, which eats away the teeth, causes cavities.
A clinical study carried out in 2012 by Dr. Peter Rechmann, DMD, Professor of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), revealed that a combination of laser and fluoride varnish could reverse damage by cavities to the teeth through remineralization. In the study, molars on one side of the mouth underwent treatment while molars on the other side remained as controls. Then fluoride varnish was used to treat all the teeth. After 12 months, on average, laser-treated teeth showed few signs of decay as compared to when the study began. Using toothpaste with fluoride could help remineralize and protect teeth when used daily, while lasers can provide benefits that last long after just a single treatment. Lasers may significantly benefit people susceptible to tooth decay, such as teenagers with orthodontic braces that make it harder for them to brush their teeth.
Dr. John Featherstone, MSc, Dean of the School of Dentistry at the University of California, San Francisco, introduced preventive laser dentistry in the late 1980s. Because of his experience in physical chemistry, he worked on calcium phosphate in bones and teeth as part of his Ph.D., and made discoveries that evaded dentists in the 1960s.
During early tests, he found that laser melted teeth. He determined the reason for the failure of the lasers to be configured to the calcium phosphate crystals’ molecular vibrations. Earlier dentists were using 10,000 times more energy than required, which caused the melting effect on teeth. They were required to use a laser configured to the correct wavelength, pulse duration and energy. From this finding, he discovered the possibility of adjusting the enamel solubility to make it more cavity-resistant.
It took focused collaboration with laser physicists over many years to develop a laser that could stabilize the crystals of the enamel by heating it for a few microseconds while leaving the underlying tissue unharmed. Studies also were being carried out on the ability of lasers to remove cavities by cutting soft tissue instead of drilling. However, for lasers to be preventative, extra precision was required.
Dr. Rechmann started a more extensive study on preventative laser dentistry together with a company in Boston that has "state-of-the-art" lasers. Dr. Rechmann believes that laser dentistry will be available on a larger scale. Since the approval of laser dentistry in the cutting of soft tissue and teeth, what’s remaining is the approval of the use of the short-pulsed carbon dioxide lasers in the prevention of cavities by the Food and Drug Administration.
It is clear that we can prevent cavities through the use of laser treatment. When compared to the traditional drilling method of treating cavities, laser dentistry is less painful, and therefore friendly to children. Laser treatment is considered safe, because it does not ruin teeth during drilling. Hence, this method can treat cavities and prevent cavities through the strengthening of teeth and treat gums. If cavities have been a problem for you, look no further and go for laser dentistry.
Dr. Marc Lazare, D.D.S., M.A.G.D., is the Cosmetic Innovations Inc.’s president, inventor, teacher, consultant, featured author in dental journals which are peer-reviewed, a renowned lecturer and dental columnist. He offers services such as porcelain veneers, dental implant restoration, biomimetic dentistry and more. For more information, visit DrMarcLazare.com.
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