Dental Lasers: How to Differentiate Your Practice
As dentists, why do we buy technology? Typically we like to try new things and we want to make our lives easier, but ultimately we try new technology in an effort to provide better care to our patients. But new technology also can have positive effects on the way our patients perceive the care they receive. When the economy is not at its best, new technology can differentiate us from other practices and can vastly improve our bottom line.
Dental Lasers: How to Differentiate Your Practice
As dentists, why do we buy technology? Typ ically we like to try new things and we want to make our lives easier, but ultimately we try new technology in an effort to provide better care to our patients. But new technology also can have positive effects on the way our patients perceive the care they receive. When the economy is not at its best, new technology can differentiate us from other practices and can vastly improve our bottom line.
With all the stress related to a struggling economy, what is a dentist to do? The obvious answer is to change our business model to adapt to these changing economic conditions. Is it a good time to incorporate new technology, and if so what type of technology will be most beneficial to both your patients and your practice? As health care professionals, we should always be focused on patient care, in good times or bad. Patients may put off some treatment but let?s face it, there is a lot of unmet demand for dental care, and patients will continue to seek treatment regardless of economic conditions. Patients will just be more selective about which practice provides the most comprehensive quality treatment.
Can Dental Lasers Differentiate Your Practice?
Technology helps us to provide better and more comprehensive treatment. If that technology can also save our patients a trip to a specialist?s office, even better. Lasers are a great example of this. As lasers are incorporated into dentistry, we continue to advance the quality of care for our patients by replacing outdated methods with kinder, more efficient treatment. The technology will continue to evolve, but the concept of laser dentistry is here to stay.
Several recent advances in dental lasers have helped to justify the expense of incorporating them into a practice, including periodontal applications, endodontic applications, new handpiece technology, and expanded capabilities of diode lasers.
Deep Periodontal Therapy (DPT)1 and calculus removal using a YSGG laser2 are two new applications that are on the rise. Both the DPT and calculus removal procedures recently have been FDA approved, and studies have shown connective tissue reattachment. These recent breakthroughs, while not a substitute for treating all cases of periodontal disease, provide another way for general dentists and specialists to treat their patients with periodontal disease less invasively.
Recent studies have shown that using radial firing tips in a YSGG laser can effectively reduce bacteria up to 99.7%.3 These newly designed tips allow radial dispersion of the laser energy,4 providing for better penetration into the dental tubules and higher disinfection rates.5 This application and continuing research could drastically change the model in which endodontics is accomplished.
New Handpiece Technology
Hard-tissue laser cutting speed has been greatly improved. New developments in YSGG laser handpieces and laser energy focusing has achieved cutting speeds in hard tissue in most instances that is comparable to a high speed drill without the heat and micro fractures. This breakthrough has eliminated the greatest hurdle to incorporating lasers into general dentistry practices?the need for speed.
Expanded Capabilities of Diode Lasers
Can diode laser technology help differentiate our practices and provide better care for our patients? While diode lasers have been effective at soft-tissue cutting and have periodontal applications, 6 new research has shown diode lasers to be beneficial in treating TMJ pain and also in promoting faster healing through the biostimulation of tissue.
Therapeutic indications of diode lasers include TMJ arthralgia (treatment of the joint); myofacial pain related to TMJ (treatment of the muscle related to painful trigger points); and muscle relaxation (related to pain and muscle stiffness after dental procedures or in general). The therapeutic mechanisms of action of diode lasers include increased micro-circulation in tissue, photo-activation of inactive enzymes, improved cellular function, and in - creased ATP production.
Another expanded use of diode lasers is teeth whitening. Most in-office whitening treatments create heat and require prolonged exposure of the teeth to the applied gel. The results, while they can be esthetically dramatic, can result in sensitivity and a dehydrated appearance to the teeth. Studies using 940 diode lasers for in-office whitening have shown comparable results with less sensitivity and shorter application times (20 to 25 minutes).7
Safety, Effectiveness, and Education
Before embarking on any new technology, it?s always important to ask about safety, effectiveness, and education.
Are lasers safe? Laser energy is precisely focused, allowing the user to control the energy and remove only the hard or soft tissue that they wish to remove, resulting in more conservative treatment. Like any instrument, if used improperly lasers can damage tissue. Eye protection specific for each type of laser wavelength is required.
Do dental lasers work and can we benefit from incorporating them into our practices? The answer to the first part of that question is yes. To the second part, the answer is also yes, but a realistic approach in necessary. Hardtissue dental lasers are amazing but they are not high-speed hand pieces.
Many of us, as general practitioners, have learned to place implants, and we all know that if we don't spend time on education, the results can be less than perfect. It's no different with dental lasers. We need to take the time to educate ourselves and change the way we practice to be successful. For example, did you know that laser energy interacts with different tissue in different ways? Fortunately, we can easily adjust the laser energy to be very efficient, but there is a learning curve, and it?s important to know that slower movement of the laser allows for more efficient interaction and faster cutting.
The Key to Success
Whether we use lasers for hard tissue or soft tissue procedures, we can provide better care for our patients, but you must remember to take the time to learn about your new laser and become proficient when you incorporate this new technology into your practice. The key to success in dentistry is constantly adapting to new technology and incorporating it into our practices to provide better care for our patients.
The economy will improve, and some day we will look back on these times as a learning experience. How we adapt and change will position us for the future. When it comes to choosing the right laser for your practice, educate yourself, be innovative in your thinking, and put yourself in your patients? position. How would you like dentistry performed on you?
1. Kimmel MJ, Valdez A, Rosenburg D, et al. LaserSmile Tooth-Whitening System: A study by two independent clinical sites. Clinical Science 2003.
2. FDA Clearence- 510 (K) Number: K091746
3. Gordon W, Atabaksh VA, Meza F, et al. The antimicrobial efficacy of the erbium, chromium: yttrium-scandium-gallium-garnet laser with radial emitting tips on root canal dentin walls infected with Enterococcus faecalis. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007;138:992-1002.
4. Schoop U, Barylak A, Goharkhay K, et al. The impact of an erbium, chromium: yttriumscandium- gallium-garnet laser with radial-firing tips on endodontic treatment. Laser Med Sci. 2009;24:59-65; Epub 2007 Nov 20.
5. Schoop U, Goharkhay K, Klimscha, J, et al. The use of erbium, chromium: yttrium-scandium- gallium-garnet laser in endodontic treatment- The results of an in vitro study. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007; 138:949-955
6. Moritz A, Schoop U, Goharkhay K, et al. Treatment of periodontal pockets with a diode laser. Lasers Surg Med. 1998.22:302-311.
7. Kelbauskiene S, Maciulskiene V. A pilot study of Er,Cr:YSGG laser therapy used as an adjunct to scaling and root planing in patients with early and moderate periodontitis. Stoma - tologija. 2007;9:21-26.