Each dental laser is designed for a specific use, and dentists such as Dr. Tracey Tabor Williams employ more than one type of laser in their practices. Lasers intended for hard tissues (usually teeth) can be used to prepare a tooth for a filling, decrease tooth sensitivity, or locate small cavities before they become problematic. Lasers for soft tissues can be used to treat periodontal disease, provide cosmetic gum treatments, and conduct frenectomies. In addition, dental lasers may be employed as part of treatment for cold sores, sleep apnea, temporomandibular joint disorder, and tooth discoloration.
Each of these treatments requires the laser to accomplish specific tasks. For example, the Picasso Dental Laser employed by Dr. Williams is designed to treat periodontal issues, such as gum disease. In this application, a tiny fiber attached to the end of the laser is placed between the gums and the teeth, an area that is prone to bacteria buildup. Laser energy is directed into the area, killing bacteria. The procedure is virtually painless and much better for the health of the gums than traditional approaches.
The Diagnodent Laser, also employed in Dr. Williams’ office, detects small cavities so they can be treated via minimally invasive techniques. A very low-intensity laser strikes the tooth, causing the by-products of tooth decay to react. Sensors on the device then look for the telltale chemical signature of a new cavity.
Another benefit of these lasers is their tissue specificity. Lasers intended to affect certain types of tissue have little or no effect on other types, leading to very precise and often painless dentistry. To see this principle in action, check out this instructional video on laser dentistry. In the video, a dentist shines a dental laser on a piece of paper with black text. The laser has a different effect on the plain paper than it does on the text.