So Who Needs a Laser?
Technology…we want it, we need it, we think it’s cool, and our patients love it. But which dental technology is hype and which is indispensable? We all want to embrace technology, but we do not want to get burned with some overpriced box that does not deliver what was promised. We have patients who perceive technology as “forever changing the way dentistry is practiced.” So here we go with another “hot technology”—dental lasers.
They say lasers can do a lot of different things, they say lasers will change the way we practice, they say laser dentistry is what our patients expect. Some dentists even go as far to say they cannot practice dentistry without a laser. The question stands, do you need a laser to practice dentistry? The answer is no!
Trying vs. Doing
Can you practice dentistry without a laser? Sure. G.V. Black did not have a laser (as far as I know) and my great uncle who practiced dentistry in the 1960s did not have a laser, and I heard he was a pretty good practitioner. I do not believe it is a requirement to have cutting edge technology; it is a choice. Just like our patients have a choice regarding whom they entrust with their dental care.
As dentists, every day we make choices, but the old adage, “That was a very difficult case and I did the best I could” just doesn’t cut it. With the technology available today, we can’t just try to do our best, we must actually do our best. We must provide the best treatment and achieve the best possible result. Our patients expect it, they pay for it, and legally we are bound to provide it. So while all dentists have the choice of how to provide care, I believe lasers open up a vast array of procedures that can be done easier, faster, and better.
Use a Laser or Hope for the Best?
When a patient has subgingival decay on the mesial of No. 7 and distal of No. 8 and the gingival tissue is highly infl amed, do I need a soft-tissue laser to recontour gingival tissue to expose the gingival extent of the decay and help create hemostasis? No. I can attempt to pack cord and try to place a band and somehow control bleeding (crossing my fingers doesn’t hurt either).
Another common procedure for which we don’t necessarily need a laser is a crown prep with a buildup we just completed. We finish the margins and try to pack cord. Some goes into the sulcus and some doesn’t so we pull it out. Bleeding begins, so we administer hemostasis agents, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Maybe this has never happened to you, but it used to happen to me a lot. (Just rememeber to keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.)
Would a tool that helps contour tissue, helps control bleeding, and provides for a more predictable impression allow us to offer better care for our patients? I believe so. Is an instrument that is easy to use, time efficient, and makes our procedures more predictable something we need?
Well, that’s up to you. Add in all the other practical, everyday uses for lasers—cosmetic gingival recontouring, soft-tissue lesion removal, exposure of teeth, and promising nonsurgical periodontal treatment—and it seems lasers are a no-brainer for a practice that provides the highest level of care.
So when I asked if you need a laser to practice dentistry, the answer is still no. On the other hand, if you asked if I need a laser to practice dentistry, the answer would be a resounding yes!