“No Drill Dentistry?”

“No more drill?” was an exciting news headliner in May of 1997, implying that with Er:YAG dental lasers, drills were no longer necessary for treating cavities! A decade later, we can re-evaluate or validate the pros and cons of cavity treatment with dental lasers.

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Dental laser

In recent years, lasers have been utilized for providing precise, less-painful, clean and miraculous medical and dental procedures. In dentistry, various treatments on soft tissues (like aesthetic gum contouring, gum treatment for gingivitis and periodontal disease, apthous ulcers, frenectomies, biopsies and more) are precisely performed and heal faster with less discomfort than traditional treatments. Surgeries can be done in a very clean and fairly bloodless field. Lasers have also been used to aid in faster and more efficient tooth whitening procedures. Later exploration into how lasers can be utilized in the dental field have revealed hard tissue applications, including tooth and bone.

How does laser energy work with our body? The laser-tissue interaction can be looked at by identifying the laser’s characteristics. The laser wavelength (which has a very specific peak absorption curve) is attracted to certain tissues or elements. Our body, as a recipient site receiving the laser energy, is composed of different structures and elements. The best and most efficient results occur when the perfect match is found between the laser’s energy and the target tissue.

Since erbium energy (Er:YAG) is attracted to water and hydroxylapatite (tooth and bone elements), and decayed tooth structures are full of moisture, the laser energy reacts to your decayed tooth structure much quicker than your healthy tooth structure. This means the decayed tooth structure can be ablated away efficiently. The process happens precisely at the target tissue (the cavity), energy does not travel beyond this site – this means the tooth will not react to the process, resulting in less irritation than a traditional dental drill (which  carries mechanical vibration and heat, causing irritation to the teeth)!

In comparison, when it comes to restorative dentistry, rotary instruments (like a traditional drill) are still easier, faster and more predictable in creating specific tooth shapes to receive dental restorations, and rotary instruments have been improved, combining elements of both air and electricity, giving better torque energy, less vibration and less noise.

When discussing the removal of decayed tooth structure , the erbium laser is still a wonderful tool to create a sterile, clean site. Obtaining a laser solely for removing tooth decay, however, is not feasible.So there is few dentists offer such service. Erbium lasers are very useful for bone and soft tissue procedures (water component), dental implant recovery surgeries, and aesthetic crown lengthening (eliminating a gummy smile).Hopefully when you need such services can receive the benefits what laser dentistry can offer.

Dentistry is continuously evolving. New technology, new techniques, new prospects – it’s exciting! Get excited about your opportunity to get better dental service, ask your dental professional “what’s new!” Get the whole team excited about what benefits we can all receive from all the new and advanced technology available to us today.

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