The word "laser" might conjure thoughts of "Star Wars," but lasers are no longer merely the subject of science-fiction works. Lasers have permeated most fields of medicine, revolutionizing the way patients are diagnosed and treated.
Advantages to using lasers are that dentists may not need to use a drill or administer anesthesia, allowing patients to enjoy a more relaxed dental experience. "Some lasers can anesthetize the tooth, which can be of great value to people who cannot tolerate local anesthesia or are needlephobic," says Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) spokesperson Maharukh Kravich, DDS, FAGD.
Also, laser procedures can be more precise and can reduce symptoms and healing times associated with traditional therapies. Some dentists are using lasers for tooth whitening, periodontal (gum) disease therapy and removal of tooth decay. In the future, laser technology may be used to prevent decay by increasing the strength of the tooth.
However, laser therapy cannot be used as an alternative for every procedure.
According to AGD spokesperson Eugene Antenucci, DDS, FAGD, "Lasers have been routinely used in dentistry since 1990." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed lasers safe for use on all patients.
At this time, only a small percentage of dentists use lasers. If you are seeking a dentist who uses lasers, you should verify the dentist has been properly trained, since there are no state laws requiring dentists to have training in the use of lasers.
"Make sure that your dentist has the right amount of training," encourages Dr. Kravich.
The Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) says dentists should have completed at least a standard proficiency level of competency.
Reviewed: January 2012