Lasers: An Emerging Alternative for the Dental Drill

May 23, 2017 by Dr Rahul Doshi

Laser Dentistry

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General dentistry from Perfect Smile 2018

The dental drill has been a vital tool for dentists in their mission to restore health and function to decayed or damaged teeth. It has also earned a reputation as one of the more frightening aspects of dentistry — the sound and sensations it produces can make even the bravest of patients nervous.

But the development and growing use of lasers by dentists for many dental procedures is reducing the use of this traditional dental tool. In many cases, laser procedures are proving to be less invasive or destructive.

Laser is an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” While other light sources emit light along several wavelengths of the visible spectrum, a laser produces and amplifies a narrow beam of light on a single wavelength.

There isn’t one kind of laser — there are many depending on the particular wavelength it produces. That has opened the door to a variety of applications.

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What are lasers used for?

For many years, lasers have been used for soft tissue procedures, especially for the treatment of periodontal disease. In the hands of a skilled dentist, a laser can precisely remove only infected tissue and leave healthy tissue minimally affected.

After the treatment, a residue of carbon known as char, remains and serves as a dressing that can aid in healing. The result: less tissue damage, less bleeding and speedier healing time.

Now, however, lasers have entered the domain of the dental drill with new FDA-approved hard tissue procedures. As with soft tissue, they are proving effective with removing only the necessary amount of affected enamel and dentin in a decayed tooth.

The result: the laser is more effective than the dental drill in preserving a greater amount of a tooth’s structure.

Current lasers are very effective with small cavities, but a bit slower and less efficient with larger cavities. All in all, though, the laser is quickly becoming a welcome alternative to traditional drilling techniques.

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