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How are lasers used in Dentistry?

Dentistry is a unique clinical specialty that has technological advancements as its core foundation for patient care. Leading the biomaterials and biomedical device incorporation into their daily clinical practice, light devices have played a central role in the dental armamentarium. Its utilization includes a wide range of clinical applications with simple uses such as for intraoral illumination, light-cured composites and photo bleaching (tooth whitening).

Benefits of lasers and energy-based devices in Dentistry

High power lasers are popular in dentistry as precise soft tissue surgical tools that additionally provide a bloodless field (photothermal coagulation). Additionally, they are also used for photodynamic applications where absorption by pigmented lesions (endogenous or enhanced by exogenous dyes) results in selective destruction. While this is extensively utilized in dermatology and oncology, dentistry has also extended this application to target pathogenic bacteria (biofilms) in periodontal defects and within root canals.

Recent Advances in Laser Dentistry

Most lasers previously were bulky and awkward for clinical use. Significant technological advancements have made sophisticated and compact laser devices available for routine dental care. Multiple innovative applications are being developed that encompass clinical theranostics (diagnoses/prognoses and therapy). 

Some examples of the increasing popularity of laser technology is for multimodal optical imaging, Caries detection, Premalignancies screening, Optical coherence tomography, Multi-photon, Photoacoustic, among others); hard tissue ablation, and reducing pain, inflammation and promoting healing with low power therapies termed Photobiomodulation (low level light therapy).

Perhaps the most excitement currently is the expanding availability of hard tissue ablative dental lasers that promise vibration-free and more comfortable tooth drilling patient experiences. Further, there are exciting new advances in clinical applications of lasers in dentistry that include increasing resistance to tooth demineralization, differential ablation (decayed versus normal tooth structure), regeneration of hard and soft tissue by promoting stem cell differentiation, among others.

Updated September 2, 2014

The American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery is the world’s largest scientific organization dedicated to promoting research, education and high standards of clinical care in the field of medical laser applications. It provides a forum for the exchange of scientific information and participation in communicating the latest developments in laser medicine and surgery to clinicians, research investigators, government and regulatory agencies, and the public.

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