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What Is Laser Dentistry and How Does It Work?

If the thought of a dental drill makes you panic, or if you’re just looking to complete your dental treatment faster, laser dentistry may be the answer. Lasers have been used in dentistry for more than three decades, and laser treatment is often more comfortable, efficient, and affordable than traditional dental treatments.

This growing field of dentistry has many uses, including repairing fillings, treating tooth decay, treating gum disease, reshaping teeth and gums, and teeth whitening.

How Does Laser Dentistry Work?

Lasers are highly focused beams of light that can cut or treat diseased or damaged tissue in the mouth. Different types of lasers use different wavelengths of light that can target either soft tissue, such as the gums, or hard tissue, such as teeth and bone.

Since laser treatment is extremely precise, it is less invasive than traditional dental procedures. The FDA has approved lasers to treat several dental conditions.

Benefits of Laser Dentistry

One of the most important benefits of dental lasers is that patients usually experience little or no pain. Unlike a traditional dental drill, there are no vibrations to cause discomfort. There are also no sharp instruments required. This means that many laser dentistry procedures require less anesthesia (or none at all).

Additionally, laser dentistry is often a faster and more efficient option, especially for dental work that requires multiple treatments. Laser procedures also typically have a shorter recovery time than traditional dental care, with patients reporting less pain and swelling afterward. Since laser treatment can usually be completed in fewer sessions than non-laser treatment, laser dentistry is often more affordable.

Laser dentistry also has a host of other benefits. Since the laser helps blood clot faster, there is less blood loss and less need for sutures. Laser dentistry also carries less risk of bacterial infection because lasers automatically sterilize the area as they go. Lasers are also extremely precise, which means there’s less risk of damage to the surrounding tissue.

What Is Laser Dentistry Used For?

Hard Tissue Procedures

Lasers can be used for many procedures involving the teeth and bone, also known as hard tissue. For example, a laser can be used to remove tooth decay to prepare for a filling. Compared to a drill, using a laser for filling preparation may preserve more of the healthy tooth.

Your dentist may also use a laser to:

  • Fix a damaged filling
  • Shape teeth to prepare them for composite bonding
  • Treat hypersensitivity to hot and cold
  • Remove small amounts of a tooth

Soft Tissue Procedures

Lasers are especially suited to working on soft tissues such as gums because the laser simultaneously cuts into the tissue and seals exposed blood vessels. This prevents bleeding, reduces the risk of infection, and promotes faster healing. Soft tissue procedures that can be done with lasers include:

  • Treating mild to severe gum disease (also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis)
  • Correcting uneven gum lines or “gummy smile,” in which the gums cover much of the tooth
  • Correcting restricted tongue movement, which often occurs when the frenulum (the skin under the tongue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) is too thick or tight
  • Removing soft tissue folds, such as those caused by dentures
  • Lengthening crowns, a procedure that involves reshaping gum tissue and bone for a healthier tooth structure

Other Laser Dentistry Procedures

Lasers aren’t only used for soft and hard tissue procedures. Dentists also use lasers for procedures such as teeth whitening. The dentist will place whitening gel on your teeth, then use lasers to activate it for a quicker whitening process with better results.

Lasers also play a role in preventive dental care. Certain types of lasers can help identify tooth decay that could lead to a cavity before it’s visible to the naked eye. This makes lasers a valuable alternative to x-rays. Earlier detection makes it easier to treat the decay before it develops into a cavity.

Laser CAD/CAM technology is used for crowns, veneers, and bridges. This technology helps your dentist get more precise teeth impressions, making these procedures more comfortable for patients and ensuring your dental device fits perfectly.

Lasers can also be used to treat other oral and dental problems, including:

  • Removing lesions and benign tumors in the mouth
  • Taking biopsies
  • Pain relief for TMJ (temporomandibular joint) dysfunction
  • Treating obstructive sleep apnea
  • Promoting healing of cold sores and canker sores
  • Regenerating damaged nerves, blood vessels, or scars.
What to Expect at Your Laser Dentistry Appointment?

In many ways, your laser dental appointment will be similar to other dental appointments you’ve experienced. Depending on the procedure being performed, you may receive a sedative or anesthesia, although laser dental procedures are less likely to require anesthesia than traditional procedures. You will also wear special glasses to protect your eyes while the laser is being used.

Most patients experience little to no discomfort during the procedure. Unlike a dental drill, there are no vibrations to cause discomfort. Recovery is generally quicker than other dental procedures, and you will not have a wound that needs to heal as you would if a scalpel were used.

In general, laser treatments are quicker than traditional procedures and may require fewer visits to complete, which also makes them less expensive.

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