Laser-Focused Questions for ALD President Dr. Mel Burchman
Dr. Mel Burchman was installed as the president of the Academy of Laser Dentistry during its recent conference and exhibition in Dallas.
Introduction: Dr. Mel Burchman was installed as the president of the Academy of Laser Dentistry during its recent conference and exhibition in Dallas.
Dr. Burchman has maintained a private dental practice in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, for 44 years. He has been using lasers for 21 years and has 8 lasers in his office. He has served on the Board of Directors for one 3-year term, and in numerous chairmanship positions including 2019 Conference Chair for the Annual Meeting, and as Certification Committee Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. Dr. Burchman has volunteered as a mentor and examiner for more than 18 years. In 2012, he was the honored recipient of the ALD Leon Goldman Award for Clinical Excellence. Dr. Burchman is an ALD Certified Laser Educator and also holds ALD Mastership status.
Q. Congratulations on becoming ALD president. It seems like it’s been a long journey. When did you first discover laser dentistry?
A. In 1998, I received a post card from Millennium Lasers in which they listed many ways of using lasers for periodontal treatments. Since I was fortunate to receive 4 years of periodontal education at N.Y.U. Dental School I always did my own periodontal treatments and the thought of doing them by laser was very intriguing. So, I went to my first laser course in 1998 and followed it up with many others.
Q. How did lasers change the way you practice dentistry?
A. Incorporating lasers into my practice has been the best thing I’ve ever done! I don’t care how great your injection technique is, no patient likes getting a needle or that numb feeling! I’ve been using lasers for 21 years and I give about 60% fewer injections every day. Think about how that alone reduces the stress of practicing dentistry. What’s more, we do not do a single extraction or root canal procedure without using photobiomodulation (PBM) pre and post- operatively. PBM not only provides improved healing it greatly reduces any post-op pain. PBM enables dentists to become healers!
Q. Did becoming a laser dentist give you a competitive edge in your community?
A. It absolutely did! I live eight minutes from my practice and it’s very rewarding to be walking around my community and have people come up to me and say, “You’re the Laser Guy”, or “You’re the Dentist Where Nobody Cries.” Word of mouth is the least expensive type of advertising and being known as the laser dentist has definitely given me an advantage over the other practices in the area. I love it. The patients love It. They send in their friends and family members. I am constantly being asked, “Why don’t more dentists use lasers?” I can only say “I don’t know”.
Q. You’ve been an ALD member since the early days. What has your involvement with the Academy meant to you professionally and personally?
A. I purchased my first laser in 1998 and I went to my first ALD conference in 1999. I found the nicest group of people who were excited to share their laser knowledge and experiences with me. I have always said that I would have never become the laser dentist that I am today had it not been for that first conference.
I have since been to 20 consecutive conferences and have tried to honor the ALD heritage of sharing and teaching others.
I made so many friends from all around the world and that gives you a totally different perspective about dentistry. When I was giving my president’s remarks, I was proud to speak about all of my ALD friends and mentors who helped me along the way - They’re the best.
Q. Which personal ALD achievements and milestones are you the proudest of?
A. Naturally, the one I am most proud of is becoming the Academy president. It’s a result of the many years of working with fellow members of the ALD to further the advancement of dental laser knowledge and sharing experiences with other dental professionals. It is a recognition from your laser peers.
Second, are the two awards that I’ve received for using dental lasers to treat the medically-compromised patient. This is my passion and my love. The procedures that I have been able to do with my lasers have been incredible. For example, I was recently mentioned in the blog of American Academy of Oral and Systemic Health. The author of the blog post was a physician who referred a patient suffering from oral mucositis to my office. Much to his surprise, the referred patient said the treatment was, “Life changing!”
In addition, my laser clinical technique for treating Parkinson’s patients was quoted in an Australian Neurological journal. In 2003 I received the “Clinic Behind the Science of Laser Dentistry Award” and in 2011 I received the Academy of Laser Dentistry’s Leon Goldman award for clinical excellence for my work in treating medically-compromised patients.
Q. Could you share some of the goals you’re setting during your term as ALD president? What is the future of the Academy?
A. The key objectives of my presidency are:
Q. Are there any new initiatives already in progress?
A. Recently, the Academy has seen a great increase in our international affiliations. This is because of the tremendous work of Dr. Arun Darbar (UK) and Dr. Walid Altayed (Qatar). Last October the first international conference in Dubai in conjunction with the British Academy of Implant & Restorative Dentistry (BAIRD) had over 500 attendees. Another international conference in Doha, Qatar in November. We now have ALD Study Clubs in Algeria, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, and Turkey, with more on the way.
Our “Fellowship” program has been accepted as equivalent to the first year of the “Mastership” programs at The Catholic University in Rome with pending plans at the University of Barcelona in Spain. This is a huge recognition for the ALD as the leader in dental laser education.
Q. We’re living in an on-demand world. Is the ALD developing any online education programs?
A. I’m glad you asked! Under the guidance of Dr. Sam Low, our education committee has just introduced a completely new standard level competency course. This involves a fundamental change to our education process. The first 6 hours of training is an online module. This means it can be taken at the candidate’s leisure and not involve more travel or time away from their offices.
Q. What’s the next big thing for laser dentistry? What are you excited about?
A. In October I was part of a group of laser practitioners and researchers that was honored to speak before a Congressional Sub-Committee on using Photobiomodulation (PBM) to help with the opioid crisis. Besides our professional presentations, there were many medical patients present to give testimony about lasers decreasing their pain, saving and changing their lives. One lady in particular spoke about how she was being treated with 19 pain pills per day. She stopped teaching. She was bed ridden and didn’t want to have anything to do with her husband and children.
Only when she found a photobiomodulation practitioner and began treatments did her pain decrease and her life start to change back. She is currently being weaned off of her pain medications and is now down to only 5 pills per day. She’s also lost 100 pounds and is becoming her old self again. There were many remarkable stories like hers.
Q. Any final words regarding PBM?
A. Please start to use PBM on your patients. You won’t believe how great this will make you feel. If you are a solo practitioner and need assistance in how to perform this treatment, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are affiliated with a hospital, dental school or dental society, please contact me. I’d love to teach it to you! Our patients deserve the PBM treatment option and our healthcare system desperately needs an opioid alternative.