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Your Laser Dentistry Patients Have Questions

Helpful answers that you can use when conferring with your patients looking for more information regarding laser dentistry.

LaserDentistryFaqs Greater levels of patient education and understanding lead directly to greater benefits to both the patient and the dentist. Better understanding facilitates a patient’s ability to make decisions about their own care, engenders realistic expectations of the treatments they receive, encourages proper follow-up, and perhaps most importantly, decreases anxiety while increasing their perception of the level of patient care they receive.

We’ve listed here the most frequently asked patient questions regarding laser dentistry, and provided clear and helpful answers that you can use when conferring with your patients looking for more information.

Doctor, as a title, is derived from the Latin word docere, meaning to teach. Need we say more?

Laser Dentistry FAQ

What is a laser and how does it work?

A laser is an instrument that produces a very narrow, intense beam of light energy which may or may not be visible to the human eye. When laser light comes in contact with tissue, it causes a reaction. The beam of light produced by the laser has the ability to remove, vaporize, or shape soft tissues (gums, cheeks and tongue) or hard tissues (removal of decay).

How are lasers used to remove tooth decay?  Tooth structure contains water, and the laser is absorbed by that water. The laser energy causes the water to boil and the resulting steam pressure vaporizes the decay. Since diseased or decayed material has a significantly higher water content than the healthy tooth, the decay will be targeted first and removed easily.

What are the advantages of laser treatment compared to using a dental drill in removing tooth decay?

Currently there are several different types of lasers that can be used to remove decay, harden the newest types of cosmetic filling and may often help your dentist to conserve and strengthen healthy tooth structure.

  • Lasers used for removing decay often reduce the need for a local anesthetic.
  • The laser can be more conservative than the drill in removing decay because of its selectivity for the softer, darker, decayed tooth structure.
  • The laser may remove new decay that occurs around existing gold and porcelain crowns.
  • If the decay extends below the gum line, a laser can gently contour the gum so that the tooth and gum can be restored to health. Using a dental drill in this area could cause bleeding and lacerated tissue.
  • Certain types of lasers can be used to detect decay without taking X rays.
Are there other uses of lasers in dentistry?

Yes. The laser is used for many dental procedures These include: the elimination of speech problems caused by a tongue-tie which prevents normal tongue movement; the uncovering of partially erupted wisdom teeth; the removal of lip pulls often seen in both young and adult orthodontic patients; and the gentle removal of swollen tissues caused by medications you must take to correct or control medical problems. A laser may also perform biopsy procedures for taking small tissue samples to identify benign tumors or other lesions found in the mouth. Lasers can remove inflamed tissues within a periodontal pocket and reduce the amount of bacteria. During crown lengthening procedures, lasers can remove or reshape excess gum tissues to provide adequate tooth shape for properly fitting restorations. Check with your dentist about how lasers can be used in your dental treatment.

Can lasers be used effectively to whiten teeth?

Yes. Laser energy can activate the whitening chemicals that are used to lighten teeth. The usual procedure is to coat the tooth surface with the chemical mixture and then the laser light is directed onto it. The laser itself does not interact with or damage the tooth. The activated chemical solution brightens your smile.

Will it hurt?

The aspect of laser surgery that most people appreciate is its comfort. While no treatment is always painless, the laser may reduce the need for postoperative pain medication and may reduce swelling and bleeding.

How long have dental lasers been around?

Lasers have been used in Dentistry since 1990. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that lasers provide safe and effective treatment of a wide range of applications.

Is it safe?

Yes. If the dental laser is used according to accepted practices by a trained practitioner, it is at least as safe as other dental instruments.

Is any precaution necessary?

Yes. Just as you might wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from prolonged exposure to the sun, you will be asked to wear special eyeglasses to protect your eyes from the laser light beam.

When I visit my dentist, will I be treated with the laser?

Not necessarily. Although the laser is a very useful dental instrument, it is not appropriate for every procedure. It is frequently used in conjunction with other instruments. Please ask your dentist or hygienist about the role of laser therapy in your dental treatment.

How can I be sure my dentist is competent to use a laser?

Ask questions about the extent and the location of your dentist’s laser education and training. Make certain your dentist has participated in educational courses in addition to manufacturer training.  Many dental schools, dental associations, as well as the Academy of Laser Dentistry offer dental laser education.

Here are a few steps you can immediately take to use these FAQs to improve the quality of your patient care and grow your practice:

  • Review these FAQs with your entire staff. Modify the language as you see, add analogies or metaphors if you feel it will make the information easier to understand for your patients. Internalize these answers and make sure all of your staff is on the same page when explaining laser dentistry to your patients.
  • Implement a plan to deliver this information to each and every one of your patients. Whether it’s in the waiting room or in the chair – make sure the dissemination of this information becomes consistent and standard operating procedure in your practice.
  • After you’re finished, ask your patient if they feel like they understand it well enough that they could explain it to any one of their friends who know nothing about laser dentistry. The goal is to get a “yes” – and hint – this is a great no pressure way to ask for patient referrals!
Is patient education a standardized and consistent element in your practice? We’d love to hear about it.

About the Academy of Laser Dentistry

The Academy of Laser Dentistry is an international organization of leading clinicians, researchers and academicians devoted to clinical education, research and the development of standards and guidelines for the safe and effective use of lasers. If you have questions about lasers in dentistry, you may visit the Academy’s website at www.laserdentistry.org, or contact the Academy of Laser Dentistry by phone at (954) 346-3776 or toll free 1-877-LASERS6.

ALD Staff 2015-01-15
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