The use of lasers in medical fields sounds like new technology, however, lasers have been used in the medical field for over 50 years! Since the ’60s lasers have been used in the dental setting, with the first laser designed specifically for the dental office created in 1990. Laser light can be created in many different forms, giving it many different capabilities for medical use.
Lasers work by emitting a special type of energy, each with its own specific target. Different variations of laser light can target particular parts of a cell or type of tissue. This means the laser is able to use its light to alter the bad cells or to stimulate the good ones.
When used at a therapeutic level, laser light particularly works on a protein found in mitochondria of the cell to increase ATP and reduce oxidative stress. This interaction with our cells can actually stimulate wound healing, pain relief, collagen growth, and anti-inflammatory effects. With laser being able to produce these effects we are able to treat so many different oral health conditions such as healing of extraction sites, TMJ/TMD relief, bone regeneration, healing of ulcers/mouth sores, and more.
This healing effect is also indicated to reverse gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. The laser will stimulate the healing and generation of new tissue, but at the same time, the laser light will decrease or eliminate the bacteria causing gum disease. The laser light deactivates the protein coat on the outside of the bacteria ultimately destroying it. This is called LLLT (Low-Level Laser Therapy) and because of how low of an impulse it requires to kill the bacteria it has no harmful effects on the healthy tissue. It is similar to the idea of UV light being capable of killing a virus but without any of the harmful UV radiation during the treatment.
When in for a regular hygiene appointment, our laser therapy will be offered. For our patients with moderate to severely active disease, we include the laser as part of the reversal therapy needed to restore health and start on the maintenance program. We will use the low-level therapies to reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth contributing to oral disease and promote the healing and regeneration of new healthy tissue! We have already had positive feedback from patients with active moderate to severe gum disease that was causing them discomfort, and they were so pleased with the added relief they received from the laser therapy.
We also love the LLLT for the healing and reduction of canker sores. The light is used to deactivate the virus causing the sore, stimulates the healing of the site, and reduce the pain/inflammation in the area treated. Healing takes effect immediately and is often completely resolved within 1-2 days. This therapy is often cheaper than OTC medications, as well as quicker and more effective. This also reduces the chance of the canker sore reoccurring in that particular area and people who have had multiple treatments have seen a reduction in the number of cold sores they get in general. We have already seen incredible results with this in our office!
LLLT can also be effective at reducing or eliminating tooth sensitivity. The laser works to change the internal liquid of the dental tubules so that sensations are blocked and not felt by the inner nerve of the tooth. We have done this for areas with exposed root structure or even around recently placed dental crowns. Our patients have loved the relief and ease of this procedure, and then are able to go on with their day not worried about what might set off their tooth sensitivity!
Another example of low-level laser therapy that has really become life-changing was a recent case we saw in our office that showed how LLLT can stimulate bone growth. A patient presented and had lost about 70-80% of the bone between two of his front teeth, and this change occurred in a short time span of only a few years. Rapid bone loss in a site-specific area is a cause for concern, and this patient obviously had either fractured his tooth and/or had a type of bacteria living in the mouth that was causing major destruction. We referred to a specialist in the bone and tissue around the teeth, a periodontist. After evaluation, laser therapy was chosen to treat the area. The laser is able to kill the harmful bacteria causing bone loss, but also to stimulate the cells to produce healing and regeneration by activating the cells in the area. After about 6 months of healing the patient was seen in the office again, and 20-30% of the bone was regenerated only from laser therapy with six more months of healing indicated. We can’t wait to see how it continues to heal and improve. This therapy gave a patient their tooth back for potentially a lifetime when it was close to being lost.
Laser light can also be amplified for other desired results. The settings can be adjusted to make the laser powerful enough to cut or remove tissue, and even remove tooth decay. These types of treatments are done only by the dentist. They include but are not limited to gingival shaping for esthetic purposes, frenum adjustments to reverse related oral conditions such as tongue-tie or diastema, and tissue biopsy. Offices are also moving in this direction to replace the “drilling” out of a cavity prior to filling placement and is being replaced by laser removal. Laser removal of decay often does not require anesthetic with how comfortable the procedure is.
We stand by the research and clinical evidence we have seen with dental lasers. We can’t wait to continue to change lives and improve oral health with this new technology.