Soft Tissue Laser

Soft Tissue Laser

Soft tissue laser: an exciting development in cutting-edge dentistry

The first laser designed for dentistry was released in 1989. Since then, many dentists have integrated this technology into their practice but clinics that offer treatments with dental laser are still a minority. Yet, it offers numerous benefits for patients.

How does the dental laser work?

Dental lasers are devices emitting powerful, concentrated and monochromatic light (i.e. of a single color and a specific wavelength). Depending on the device used, the light’s wavelengths range from visible to infrared (invisible light).

The laser produces waves of photons (particles of light energy) and the absorption of this energy by a target tissue produces a thermal reaction which causes intracellular and intercellular changes.

Depending on the settings of the instrument and the optical properties of the tissue on which the laser is directed, the temperature rises to different levels and can produce various results. For example, a temperature of 50 °C has the effect of neutralizing several bacteria. At 60 ºC, tissue inflammation caused by periodontal disease can be eliminated. At this same temperature, hemostasis (process that causes bleeding to stop) can also be accomplished. On the other hand, soft tissue incisions and excisions are carried out at a temperature of 100 ºC. In this case, it’s the vaporization of the water inside and between the cells that allows the removal of biological tissue.

In what context do we use a soft tissue laser?

The laser is used as part of several procedures:

  • Gingivectomy (removing part of the gums for aesthetical reasons, hyperplasia or as part of a periodontal treatment);
  • Gingivoplasty (a minor surgical procedure designed to reshape the contour of the gums);
  • Operculectomy (removing part of the gingivae covering a growing tooth);
  • Removal of an epulis situated on the gingival or alveolar mucosa, otherwise known as an inflammatory pseudotumour.
  • Frenectomy (surgical excision of a frenum, a muscular attachment between two tissues; the lingual frenum connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth, and the maxillary labial frenum connects the inside of the upper lip to the gums, just above the two upper front teeth). This surgical intervention can improve eating and speaking in infants, children and adults;
  • The treatment of lesions due to herpes or aphthous ulcers;
  • The removal of an intraosseous dental pathology (e.g.: a granuloma or abscess);
  • The ablation of benign lesions on the lip, tongue, oral mucosa or palate (e.g.: a fibroma or a papilloma);
  • The elimination of the coronal pulp and the disinfection of the root canal space;
  • A surgical biopsy (removal and examination of tissues).

The laser is also very useful for:

  • Fast coagulation after a tooth extraction (to stop the bleeding and sterilize the alveolus) with the effect of limiting the risk of dry socket, bleeding and infection.
  • Periodontal disease treatment: when used in addition to dental scaling and root planing, the dental laser improves the treatment efficiency and reduces the presence of bacteria like A.actynomycetemcomitans, a germ involved in systemic diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) and heart disease.

Did you know?

When used at lower intensities, dental lasers have a biostimulating effect. They have been shown to accelerate wound healing, relieve pain, increase collagen growth, and have an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.

What are the benefits of laser therapy?

It offers numerous benefits for the patient:

  • The laser is a very precise instrument that can remove the equivalent of a few layers of cells at a time.
  • Because it increases the temperature of the tissue, the laser reduces the presence of bacteria and other pathogens, which allows the decontamination of affected tissues in patients suffering from periodontal disease.
  • The laser has hemostatic properties (limits bleeding). Therefore, it reduces the risk of bleeding after surgery. The fact that there is less blood also offers a better view of the surgical site, which allows the surgeon to act more quickly and accurately.
  • The laser limits the amount of stitches and sutures needed.
  • As the contours of the incision made by a laser are more irregular than those made by a scalpel, the wound heals better and leaves no scar.
  • A procedure using laser requires little or no anesthesia.
  • Dental laser technology is safe for both children and pregnant women since it does not usually require the use of anesthetics and drugs (pain killers and antibiotics).
  • Not resorting to drugs and anesthetics limits the risk of allergic reactions, bacterial resistance and side effects.
  • Several treatments can be performed in one appointment.
  • Laser technology limits discomfort and postoperative swelling (by sealing the nerves and lymphatic vessels).

Thanks to dental lasers…

  • Bleeding is limited;
  • There is less need for anesthetics;
  • There is little or no pain during and after the procedure;
  • Healing is faster and improved.

Are there disadvantages to laser dentistry?

  • The dentist must carefully monitor the rate of tissue removal to avoid lateral thermal damage.
  • As this technology is relatively new and its use requires extensive training, it is not available in all dental clinics and cannot be used in many commonly performed dental procedures.
  • The purchase of the equipment represents a substantial investment for the dentist and this results in laser treatment being more expensive than traditional treatments.