Do you dread the sound and vibration of the dentist drill? Are you intrigued by the latest technological innovation? Then laser dentistry may appeal to you.

Laser-dentistry proponents assert that laser-therapy benefits include quicker treatments and healing; reduced swelling, bleeding, and pain; increased precision that preserves healthy tooth and gum tissue – and sometimes the elimination of the need for anaesthesia or the dentist’s drill. Laser therapy, they say, also effectively kills harmful bacteria in diseased gums and teeth.

Mixed Reactions to Laser Dentistry

Even though laser dentistry continues to spread following approval of the first dental laser in 1989, it still hasn’t won complete approval from the entire professional dental community. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)has OK’d more than 20 treatment uses for dental lasers, the prestigious American Dental Association (ADA) has not yet endorsed laser dentistry for complete effectiveness and safety compared to traditional therapies. The ADA believes more studies on laser treatments are necessary. Neither has the American Academy of Period ontology (AAP) accepted laser dentistry as superior to traditional gum-disease treatments.

Dental-Laser Treatment Uses

Yet even the cautious ADA uses the words “optimistic,” “positively,” and “encouraging” when describing its views on laser treatment for periodontitis (infection of tissue supporting the tooth); excision of teeth decay for filling cavities without anaesthesia; and root planning, the smoothing of a tooth’s root during deep cleaning.

A more enthusiastic stance toward laser dentistry comes from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), a 65-year-old professional association. On its patient information web pages, the AGD encourages laser dentistry use for gum-disease therapy; excising of gum and bone tissues for various dental treatments; biopsies; and accelerating teeth-whitening treatments.

Dentists also employ lasers to boost the bond between new fillings and teeth and for dental cleanings.

Patients should know that even laser-dentistry practices frequently combine laser therapies with traditional dental equipment as needed. For instance, lasers aren’t indicated for additional work on an existing dental filling.

Cost of Laser Dentistry

Most dental insurance policies reimburse for the actual procedure done, such as a root canal or cavity treatment, not according to the instrument that is used to do the work. Laser-dentistry supporters say it reduces costs because dental work can be completed in fewer visits and with fewer medical complications. However, patients should consider this: the prices for traditional dental drills run in the hundreds of dollars, while dental-laser price tags number in the tens of thousands of dollars. To determine the cost of laser therapy for your needed dental work, consult your insurance company and your dentist.

Safety and Training Considerations

Before your laser dentistry treatment begins, your dentist should have you put on special protective goggles to shield your eyes. He or she should don them too.

Of course, with all medical care human error can occur, including in laser dentistry. For instance, a dentist should choose the right type of laser for a particular dental treatment, and then correctly operate the equipment.

So it’s important that your dentist is thoroughly trained in the operation of his or her laser instruments. Your dentist should have undergone training by the laser-equipment manufacturer – and further training or education by an independent organization. The Academy of Laser Dentistry, for instance, offers training and certifications. The Laser Institute of America provides safety training for medical-laser use. Some dental colleges include coursework on laser dentistry.

If your dentist provides laser treatments, ask about his or her training in laser dentistry. It’s also a good idea to find out a dentist’s scope and length of experience with laser dentistry, including with the particular work you need done.