The Use of Lasers in Dentistry

The ADA, the American Dental Association, has yet to give its approval to the use of lasers in dentistry even though the FDA has and lasers have been used since 1994 to treat various dental problems.  Although the ADA has not given its seal of approval, the agency does state that it is “cautiously optimistic about the role of laser technology in the field of dentistry.”

Lasers are used by dentists in the following ways:

  • Tooth Decay – A laser can remove decay within a tooth and also prepare the surrounding enamel for the filling.  Once the filling is placed, the laser is then used to “cure” or harden the filling.
  • Gum Disease – Lasers can be used to reshape gums and remove bacteria during root canal procedures.
  • Biopsy or Lesion Removal – Lasers can be used to remove a piece of gum tissue for biopsy.  A laser can also be used to remove any lesions in the mouth.
  • Teeth Whitening – A laser can speed up tooth whitening procedures.

Lasers work by delivering energy in the form of light.  Depending upon the procedure, the laser can act as a cutting instrument, vaporizer, an enhancer or a bond strengthener.

The pros of using a laser compared to the traditional dentist drill are listed below:

  • May cause less pain, thus reducing the need for anesthesia.
  • May reduce anxiety in patients who are uncomfortable with the use of a traditional drill.
  • Minimizes bleeding and swelling during certain treatments.
  • May preserve more healthy tooth during cavity removal.

The disadvantages of using lasers are listed below:

  • Lasers cannot be used on teeth that are already filled.
  • Cannot be used on many normal dental procedures, such as filling cavities between teeth, around old fillings or large cavities.  They also cannot be used to remove old fillings or crowns.
  • Even when a laser is used, there are times a drill will still need to be used to shape fillings, adjust the bite and even polish the filling.
  • Laser treatment is more expensive since the cost of a laser system is much higher than a dental drill.