Star Wars’ light sabers cut through objects like butter. Thankfully, lasers can be adapted to many other, non-violent, uses. Who thought you would someday see a laser being used in your dentist’s office! That day is “now.”
Dental Lasers Detect Cavities
Anyone who has been to a dentist is familiar with the “explorer” used to detect cavities. Your hygienist and dentist both use the curved tool with the pointy end to probe your teeth and locate areas of “interest” when the instrument sticks in a crevice.
A diode laser instrument is joining this “tried and true” method of detecting cavities. When the laser is directed at an area of the tooth that contains decay, that area glows. And, it registers a higher reading depending upon the amount of decay present. The laser painlessly detects decay on chewing surfaces and finds these areas of decay much earlier than possible with the explorer probe. Your dentist then can determine what treatment, if any, is appropriate to prevent further decay or repair the tooth.
It is important to note that the laser doesn’t replace X-rays that find decay between and/or inside teeth, and it is most successful on teeth that do not currently have restorations.
Other Uses for Lasers in the Dental Office
Lasers currently have other, limited, uses in the dental office, such as:
• Removal of decay and prepping teeth for fillings on chewing surfaces in teeth that do not have previous restorations present
• Removal of diseased gum tissue and removal of tissue for biopsies
• Removal of bacteria during root canals
• Activating bleaching solutions in teeth whitening procedures
As you can see, laser technology is merely another tool we will have at our disposal to diagnose and treat dental conditions, but its application is limited. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and what new applications the future will bring.