- Laser Use in Dentistry Center
- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Lasers have been used in dentistry since 1994 to treat a number of dental problems. But, despite FDA approval, no laser system has received the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance. That seal assures dentists that the product or device meets ADA standards of safety and efficacy, among other things. The ADA, however, states that it is cautiously optimistic about the role of laser technology in the field of dentistry. These lasers are different from the cold lasers used in phototherapy for the relief of headaches, pain, and inflammation.
Still, some dentists are using lasers to treat:
- Tooth decay. Lasers are used to remove decay within a tooth and prepare the surrounding enamel for receipt of the filling. Lasers are also used to "cure" or harden a filling.
- Gum disease. Lasers are used to reshape gums and remove bacteria during root canal procedures.
- Biopsy or lesion removal. Lasers can be used to remove a small piece of tissue (called a biopsy) so that it can be examined for cancer. Laser are also used to remove lesions in the mouth; and relieve the pain of canker sores.
- Teeth whitening. Lasers are used to speed up the 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.
Quick GuideTreatments for Whiter Teeth and a Brighter Smile
How Do Lasers Work?
All lasers work by delivering energy in the form of light. When used for surgical procedures, the laser acts as a cutting instrument or a vaporizer of tissue that it comes in contact with. When used for "curing" a filling, the laser helps to strengthen the bond between the filling and the tooth. When used in teeth whitening procedures, the laser acts as a heat source and enhances the effect of tooth beaching agents.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Laser?
Compared to the traditional dental drill, lasers:
- May cause less pain in some instances, therefore, reducing the need for anesthesia
- May reduce anxiety in patients uncomfortable with the use of the dental drill
- Minimize bleeding and swelling during soft tissue treatments
- May preserve more healthy tooth during cavity removal
The disadvantages of lasers are that:
- Lasers can't be used on teeth with fillings already in place.
- Lasers can't be used in many commonly performed dental procedures. For example, lasers can't be used to fill cavities located between teeth, around old fillings, and large cavities that need to be prepared for a crown. In addition, lasers cannot be used to remove defective crowns or silver fillings, or prepare teeth for bridges.
- Traditional drills may still be needed to shape the filling, adjust the bite, and polish the filling even when a laser is used.
- Lasers do not eliminate the need for anesthesia.
- Laser treatment tends to be more expensive since the cost of the laser is much higher than a dental drill. Lasers can cost between $39,000 and $45,000 compared to about $600 for a standard drill.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Reviewed by Jay H. Rosoff, DDS, on March 1, 2007
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, on May 1, 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
Daily Health News
Oral Health Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Top Lasers in Dental Care Related Articles
BridgesDental bridges consist of two crowns for the teeth on either side of a gap and a false tooth in between. Types of bridges include traditional bridges (made of porcelain), cantilever bridges, and Maryland bonded bridges (made of plastic). Bridges can last from five to 15 years, or longer.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Canker sores are a common complaint, and are small ulcers on the inside of the mouth. Canker sores aren't contagious (as opposed to cold sores), and typically last for 10-14 days usually healing without scarring. A variety of things cause canker sores, for example, medications (aspirin, beta blockers, NSAIDs, high blood pressure medication, and antibiotics); injury to the mouth from dental work, braces, or sports accidents; acidic foods; allergies; and diseases or conditions like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and lupus.
Canker sores can be cure with home remedies, and prescription and OTC topical and oral medication.
Dental BondingDental bonding involves the application of resin on teeth to restore or improve one's smile. The bonding material may not resist stains or last as long as crowns, veneers, or fillings. Bonding typically lasts for 3 to 10 years before needing to be touched up or replaced.
Dental CrownsDental crowns are caps that encase the tooth with the purpose of restoring the size, shape, strength or appearance of the tooth. Crowns may be temporary or permanent and may be made out of materials such as porcelain, resin, or metal.
Common Dental ProblemsLearn about dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancer. Explore procedures such as root canals, crowns, and dental implants that help improve dental hygiene.
FillingsDental fillings are used to treat cavities and teeth that have been cracked, broken, or worn down. Filling materials include cast gold, silver amalgams, composite fillings, ceramics, and glass ionomer. Amalgams containing mercury are considered safe. Regular dental cleanings, brushing, and flossing will help maintain fillings.
Gum DiseaseGum disease is caused by plaque and may result in tooth loss without proper treatment. Symptoms and signs of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease) include receding gums, bad breath and pocket formation between the teeth and gums. Treatment depends upon the stage of the gum disease, how you responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Oral CancerThe term oral cancer includes cancer of the mouth (oral cavity) and the back of the mouth (oropharynx). Red and white patches inside the mouth, bleeding, loose teeth, pain upon swallowing, a lump in the neck, earache, and a sore on your lip or in your mouth that won't heal are all symptoms of oral cancer. Treatment for oral cancer depends upon the staging of the disease and usually involves surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Root CanalA root canal is a dental procedure that's used to save an infected tooth. Treatment involves removing the tooth's nerve and pulp and then cleaning and sealing the tooth. Symptoms and signs that indicate a root canal is needed include toothache, discoloration, swelling, tenderness, prolonged sensitivity to hot or cold, and a persistent pimple on the gums. Typically, a root canal is no more painful than having a filling placed.
Teeth PictureThe teeth are the hardest substances in the human body. See a picture of the Teeth and learn more about the health topic.
Teeth WhiteningTeeth whitening refers to the use of special toothpastes or bleaching agents to brighten teeth and remove stains and yellowing. Teeth whitening with bleach can be performed at home or in a dental office. Side effects may include increased tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.