Lasers are one of the most important discoveries of the 20th Century.
The first laser was first built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories.
The word “laser” is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers have many applications in our daily lives as well as in the military and space exploration. Here are just a few of the things we need lasers for
- DVD and Blu-ray players using laser to read and write data
- In medicine and dentistry, such as eye surgery, gum surgery, cavity removal etc.
- In space exploration. NASA have sent Curiosity Rover equipped with laser to Mars
- To drill holes in diamonds! We can use tiny diamonds for scientific research.
- Communication – internet and TV
- In military for target acquisition, fire control, and training.
The primary wavelengths of laser radiation have three regions – ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the spectrum. Ultraviolet radiation for lasers consists of wavelengths between 180 and 400 nm. The visible region consists of radiation with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm. This is the portion we call visible light. The infrared region of the spectrum consists of radiation with wavelengths between 700 nm and 1 mm.
When laser radiation is absorbed by your skin, the effect on the absorbing biological tissue is either photochemical, thermal, or mechanical: in the ultraviolet region, the action is primarily photochemical; in the infrared region, the action is primarily thermal; and in the visible region, both effects are present. When the intensity of the radiation is sufficiently high, damage to the absorbing tissue will result.
There are usually three components for lasing. They are a gain medium – examples: Argon gas, Erbium crystal, and diode etc., a pump source – examples: an electric current, arc lamp, and electrical discharge etc., and a resonator – examples: mirrors and reflectors etc.
What is laser dentistry?
Laser dentistry is the use of lasers to treat a number of different dental conditions. It became commercially used in clinical dental practice for procedures in the 80s.
Dental lasers can be used in the followings:
- Tooth decay. Lasers are used to remove tooth decay and prepare the surrounding tissues for the composite resin fillings (white fillings).
- Gum disease. Lasers are used to reshape gums, kill bacteria and remove the granulation tissues (bad gum tissues)
- Root Canal therapy. Lasers can be used to disinfect the canals after proper shaping and cleaning.
- lesion removal. Lasers can be used to remove a small piece of tissue for biopsy so that it can be examined for cancer. Lasers are also used to remove lesions in the mouth and relieve the pain of canker sores.
- Cosmetic gum recontouring. The gummy smile can be improved significantly by recontouring and reshaping the gum tissues around the teeth.
- Tongue or lip tie. When the ligament or frenum that is attaching to the tongue or lip is too strong or too much that hinders the movements of the tongue or lip, the laser can be used to severe part of the attachment.
- Teeth whitening. Lasers are used to speed up in-office teeth whitening procedures. A peroxide bleaching solution, applied to the tooth surface, is ”activated” by laser energy, which speeds up of the whitening process.
- Temporal mandibular joint pain or headache. Cold lasers can be used to treat the pain by reducing the inflammation in the lased areas.
There are indeed other procedures that can be treated with laser as well like reduction of teeth sensitivity to hot and cold. Crown lengthening procedures, hemostasis, removal of denture sore spots, treating obstructive sleep apnea and helping nerve regeneration etc.
What are the benefits of using laser in dentistry?
- When using it to do frenectomy, it makes a nice clean cut with much less bleeding at the wound because of the hemostasis and sealing effects. So may not need suture in most circumstances.
- Less post-op pain soon after the laser surgical procedures
- Faster healing with less chance of infection in the surgical site
- May reduce anxiety in patients uncomfortable with the use of the dental drill
- More precise trimming and contouring of the gum tissues in gingivectomy to produce esthetic smile (example removal of gummy smiles)
- May cause less pain in some instances, so reduces the need for anesthesia
- Can preserve healthy tooth structure during cavity removal
- Can promote gum healing and reduction of deep pockets after non-surgical gum treatment procedures
- Promote blood circulation and reduction of inflammation with low level laser.
The risks of laser dentistry are relatively small. It’s important to find a qualified dental professional, as using the wrong wavelength or power level could damage tissues. Your dentist will have you use special glasses to protect your eyes from the laser.
However, lasers do not eliminate the need for anesthesia.
Dr. Wong at Affinity Dental Centre in Burlington recently acquire a Diode soft tissue laser from Biolase and he is certified by both the Canadian Dental Laser Institute and Academy of Laser Dentistry for it.