What Are the Pros and Cons of Laser Dentistry?

We recently covered the use of lasers in dentistry and the type of procedures where they are commonly used.

Since it was clear that lasers are unlikely to replace all of the tools in a dentist’s arsenal, we were curious about what kind of things dental lasers excel at, as well as the problems their use may have. Here’s what the dentists we talked to had to say:

There are many benefits of lasers in dentistry. Here are some:
• Less tissue damage than other electrical soft tissue cutting instruments (eg., electrocautery units)
• Less histamine (the intracellular communicator that causes inflammation and pain) is released with laser cuts than scalpel incisions
• Site sterilization occurs at the site of the laser
• Photostimulation promotes healing and decreases post-operative pain

Some of the challenges with laser dentistry are:
• Procedures tend to be slower than with conventional instruments
• There is significant training involved for the clinician
• Scientific evidence does not show that there is much of a difference in clinical results over conventional methods at this time
• Different laser wavelengths are needed for different tissue types, which requires multiple laser units that are costly to purchase
• Cost of laser therapy tends to be more than conventional methods simply because the training required and equipment is costly

Kevin D. Huff, DDS, LLC – Dover, OH

As a user of the soft tissue laser only, I will not be commenting on the hard tissue laser (I don’t use them because they are very expensive and the procedures that they can be used for seem to me to be more limited).

I find the laser to give superb results when sculpting tissue for esthetics and to aid in impression taking and seating crowns around deep margins in the gum. They uncover the implants during the second stage of the process so easily and have no bleeding and excellent healing time.

I was able to do a frenectomy (a procedure that releases a too-tight muscle attachment) on my teenage daughter recently with the laser and it took very little time. There was no bleeding as it cauterizes as you go and she had minimal discomfort afterward. It is nearly healed in just a few days.

Tamara L. Clauson, DDS – Lodi, CA

Pros: Anesthetic-free fillings, non-invasive periodontal disease treatment, and soft tissue surgery that doesn’t require stitches.

Cons: Turning the power up too high and accidentally destroying the planet of Alderaan.

Joel A. Lanie, DDS – Bargersville, IN

This concludes our two-part series on the uses of lasers in dentistry. If you missed the first one, be sure to click here to learn what “laser dentistry” involves.