There are several potential advantages to using dental lasers. For example, there may be less of a need for anesthesia with lasers, since most dental procedures involving them reportedly cause less physical pain and anxiety for patients than traditional methods do. Also, recovery times from this type of dental work may be shorter and less uncomfortable -- perhaps in part because there's less bleeding and swelling during the laser procedures that involve soft tissue [source: WebMD].
But don't say goodbye to the dreaded dental drill just yet. There are some disadvantages to lasers -- and potential advantages to more traditional methods -- depending on the patient and his or her specific set circumstances. For one thing, the location of the "problem area" may prevent dental lasers from being used in many procedures. If your cavity is between two teeth, for example, your dentist will have to use a drill during the filling process. Even cavities that can be cleaned out with lasers usually need further work with a drill, since most tooth decay ends up in spots that are tough to accurately reach with a laser.
Additionally, dentists can't use lasers to remove old silver (mercury amalgam) fillings, because of the concern that the heat from a laser will release mercury vapor and expose patients to unsafe levels of mercury [source: McGuire]. Laser treatment is also much more expensive than other methods. While a regular dental drill may run a dental office less than $1,000 to obtain, dental lasers can cost upwards of $45,000 [source: WebMD].
Your dentist can talk more with you about the pros and cons of dental lasers, and most cities have specialized dental-laser treatment centers you'll also want to consult. While the future looks bright for the use of lasers in dentistry, for now, you should continue to do your research before deciding if one of these procedures is right for you.
For lots more information on dental lasers and oral health, check out the links below.
- American Dental Association. "Statement on Lasers in Dentistry." April 2009. (Oct. 22, 2011) http://www.ada.org/1860.aspx
- American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA). "Tooth Whitening Systems." (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.adha.org/oralhealth/whitening.htm
- Colgate. "Is dental amalgam safe?" (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Checkups-and-Dental-Procedures/Fillings/article/Dental-Amalgam-A-Health-Risk.cvsp
- Lomire, Edward, D.M.D. "Laser Dentistry." (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.lomiredental.com/pages/our-facilities-laser-dentistry.htm
- McGuire, Tom, D.D.S. "Mercury Amalgam (Silver) Fillings and More: Questions and Answers." (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.mercuryfreenow.com/tom/QA.html
- Mitchell, Margaret, D.D.S. "Laser Use in Dentistry." (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.mitchelldentalspa.com/dental-laser-treatment.htm
- Parker, S. "History of Lasers and Laser Light Production." British Dental Journal. Jan. 13, 2007. (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v202/n1/full/bdj.2006.113.html
- Pennsylvania Dental Association. "History of Dentistry." (Oct. 22, 2011) http://www.padental.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Teachers2&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13173
- Tanzi, Elizabeth L., M.D. "Erbium-YAG Cutaneous Laser Resurfacing." Aug. 16, 2011. (Oct. 22, 2011) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1120936-overview
- Tunér, Jan, D.D.S. "Low Level Lasers in Dentistry." (Oct. 22, 2011) http://www.laser.nu/lllt/Laser_therapy_%20in_dentistry.htm
- WebMD. "Laser Use in Dentistry." Mar. 15, 2009. (Oct. 15, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/laser-use-dentistry