If your heart tends to race when you think about the juddering sensation and the piercing whine of the dentist’s drill, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
It’s a very common reaction. Many people have nerves about their next dental check-up and serious anxiety when they think about upcoming treatments. It’s understandable when you think about the experiences of dental patients in previous generations, back in those days when anaesthetic wasn’t as effective, before dental procedures were as sophisticated as they are today, and when all round oral health wasn’t at the high standards of the modern world. But that was then. Times have changed. Going to the dentist and having work done on your teeth doesn’t have to be such a big thing anymore.
What if we could tell you about new technology that means we can often dispense with the drill entirely for dental procedures, and instead use a tool that is less invasive, more accurate, and encourages quicker recovery? Well, we can. That tool is the laser.
The world laser is an acronym that stands for, Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Basically the kind of lasers we use work by issuing a very narrow stream of light that reacts with the water molecules in your teeth and gums to cause tiny explosions.
Guided by the dentist to target only the precise areas that need the work, the dental laser destroys bacteria, removes unwanted dental material, and seals hygienically as it goes. All that makes it much easier for the dental surgeon to do the job quickly and efficiently.
It’s also much kinder to your mouth; rather than having to cut into surrounding healthy tooth or soft tissue with a drill or scalpel blade, or wait for healing and recovery between the various stages of your treatment, a laser can often do it all at once. And because the laser pinpoints an irregular shape rather than following the straight edge of a blade, it’s more conducive to natural healing processes. That’s really good news for both the dentist and the patient.
Lasers can’t be used for every procedure in the dental surgery, but for the conditions that are suitable for laser treatment, the benefits of this technology are numerous. Lasers cause less neuropathic pain – that’s the shooting sensation that can happen when the drill hits a nerve. In fact, they are so effective at reducing pain, that often little or no anaesthetic is necessary.
That means some procedures can be carried out with no injections at all. Laser surgery also results in less swelling and inflammation, which makes for a quicker healing time and a more comfortable recovery period. The laser seals as it goes, which means that bleeding from soft tissue and gum is reduced and there’s often no need for sutures. Not only that, lasers kill off bacteria in the targeted area, which means that the likelihood of infections around a wound is reduced. That also allows us to cut down on the use antibiotics, which is a significant benefit for everyone.
When laser dentistry was first introduced, it was only licensed for use on soft tissue. Nowadays lasers are becoming a highly adaptable and effective tool in the hands of specially trained dentists, and they are commonly used for work on the tooth itself and all areas of the mouth. The use of lasers represents a significant improvement in the changing face of dentistry.
The word laser can sound frightening and space age because we’re used to hearing about lasers used as weapons, and seeing fictional depictions in films and books that link their use with destruction and violence. But as with any powerful discovery, used in the right hands by a trained and caring professional, lasers are completely safe. Why not ask your dental surgeon where they completed their training in the use of lasers and what it involved. They should be happy to tell you.
Dental surgeries using lasers are registered and safeguarded by the appropriate authorities. The British Medical Laser Association (BMLA) is the top UK society for the use of medical lasers in this country. That’s not just dentists, but also surgeons, cosmetic therapists and others in the field. They provide training and certification for anyone involved in the use of medical lasers, with a focus on every related area of health and safety, and they provide follow-up training and supervision.
The major governing body for laser use in the dental surgery is the ALD: the Academy of Laser Dentistry. Founded in 1993, the ALD is the largest international organisation dealing with laser dentistry. Their website state: ‘The advances in technology and techniques that have occurred, and those we are currently exploring, are making laser dentistry more sophisticated and successful, bringing it to the forefront of the dental field.’ 
But at the end of the day, when you’re sitting back in the chair with the dentist using a laser, this is probably the reassurance you need as a patient facing the thought of laser surgery: you’ll be given the usual eye protection, you won’t experience the vibrations of a drill or the high pitched noise, you just might feel the gentle popping of water molecules in your mouth, but it’s all very low key and not scary at all. https://www.laserdentistry.org/index.cfm/professionals/Welcome
Your dentist will be able to let you know if lasers are an appropriate treatment for your condition. As time goes on the potential of new dental technologies continues to develop and the list of possible treatments continues to expand. Here are just some of the ways lasers are already commonly used in dental surgery.
No one looks forward to fillings, but with a laser instead of a drill you could look forward to a pain-free procedure, with little or no anaesthetic. Not all fillings are suitable for laser treatment, but where they are, they kill the bacteria in the tooth cavity which is an invaluable benefit in caring for the long-term health of the tooth.
If your teeth are sensitive to extremes of hot and cold it can make eating and drinking uncomfortable on a daily basis. Using a laser, a dental surgeon can seal off the sensitive areas, and reduce or eliminate the pain of sensitivity.
Killing off the bacteria that cause’s periodontal disease is a natural action of laser treatment. Lasers can be used to deal very effectively with longstanding mouth infections. Where gums have lost their natural pink colour, and have become darker, or patchy, lasers can quickly restore the pigmentation, which will enhance and rejuvenate the look of teeth. Healthy, symmetrical and well-contoured gums are integral to the appearance and feel of a healthy mouth. With professional laser treatment, your gums can be contoured and evened out. You can feel confident with your smile.
Many recurrent problems in the mouth can be alleviated or potentially cured with a laser. A persistent ulcer or cold sore can be removed more effectively and permanently, and far more quickly, than by using medications. If you discover a lump or benign growth that needs a biopsy or removal, the procedure can be performed quickly and easily, potentially meaning a much quicker route to any further tests or investigations that might be needed. Other abnormalities in the mouth can also be treated with a laser. If you have a wisdom tooth that is causing pain and infection as it breaks through the surface of the gum, a laser can release the tissue that is preventing it from coming through. Lasers are sometimes used in root canal work. Swelling and pain in the jaw can be treated with dental lasers, and certain breathing conditions such as sleep apnea can even be treated by reshaping the tissue around the throat.
Lasers are amazing, but of course they aren’t the magic new ‘magic wand’ cure for every single dental problem. That isn’t how healthcare or dental surgery works. As experienced dental professionals, we continue to welcome new innovations, factor in the latest research and experience, carry out the necessary checks, and abide by official safety guidelines concerning the use of dental technology. When lasers were first introduced, concerns were raised about things like radiation. But research has not shown this to be a problem, and the safeguards in place are intended to minimise every avoidable risk.
The basic message is that lasers are one of the most significant advances for dental surgery in recent years, revolutionising approaches to dentistry. Where they are suitable for use in a patient’s treatment, they have the following benefits:
Contact us to find out whether laser dentistry is something you can benefit from. We’ll be really happy to discuss your dental health and whether the use of lasers could be helpful in any dental treatment you may require.