At Bunker Hill Dentistry, we’re always interested in using the techniques and tools that provide the best patient experience possible. That’s why we incorporate laser dentistry into our practice–lasers offer speed, comfort, safety, precision, and improved results from interventions. Learn what lasers can do in dentistry and if this amazing technology can be applied in your next dental procedure. How Do Lasers Work in Dentistry? A handheld laser diode device (left) vs traditional dentist tools (right). The word “laser” is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulating the emission of radiation.” A laser tool directs an intense beam of light that’s of a single wavelength, with all the waves in phase with each other, and all rays parallel to each other. All lasers used in medicine make for less pain, less bleeding, and less swelling for the patient than they would experience if a drill or scalpel were used in their operation. This is true in dentistry, as well. A laser is able to seal blood and lymphatic vessels and nerve endings as it cuts, as well as offer the dentist the ultimate in precision so that healthy tissue is not accidentally harmed while damaged tissue is being removed. Dental lasers can also be used in diagnostics and alignment and guidance to assist manual interventions. Laser Applications: What Do We Treat with Lasers at Bunker Hill Dentistry? There are a variety of soft tissue and other types of issues we can use a laser to treat in our practice: Tooth Decay Tooth decay is the loss of minerals in the outer surface of your tooth–called the enamel–that can lead to cavities, pulp damage, and abscesses if not resolved. Tooth decay is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar in your mouth created when bacteria in your mouth feed on sugary or starchy foods you’ve eaten and haven’t cleaned off your teeth. Traditionally, dental X-rays are used to identify tooth decay. Traditional treatment: After a numbing shot, the dentist uses a drill to remove the decayed area of the tooth before filling in the hole or covering it with a crown. Laser treatment: Instead of X-rays, we can use a handheld laser tool to detect tooth decay before it spreads to the point you require a filling. If you do need one, we can use a laser to cut out the decayed material without the need for a shot or a drill. Gum Disease Early onset gum disease is known as gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums around teeth caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar due to poor dental hygiene. If left untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, tooth loss, and other serious conditions. Traditional treatment: One common treatment for gingivitis is scaling and root planing, in which the dentist uses special handheld tools with fine metal edges called dental curettes to scrape deposits off the tooth both above and below the gumline. Then he smooths out the tooth roots to help the gums reattach to the teeth where he scraped. This treatment is typically performed with local anesthetic. In cases of periodontitis, gum flap surgery may be performed in which the dentist makes a cut in the gum tissue so that he can pull it back and deep clean the roots underneath, before sewing the incision back up. Laser treatment: Instead of using metal tools to remove the deposits, a laser can accomplish the same objective of scaling and planing with better precision, targeting the deposits but leaving healthy tissue undisturbed. This can be done with or without anesthetic, since the laser is less invasive than a dental curette. Instead of gum flap surgery, we can use periodontal laser therapy to access and remove the inflamed gum tissue from around your tooth’s root. Root Canals If tooth decay has advanced so much that it has reached the pulp of the tooth, the infection must be removed before filling and sealing the tooth. Traditional treatment: The dentist drills an opening in the crown of the tooth to access the inside, then uses root canal files and reamers of various sizes to scrape out the damaged pulp, bacteria, and debris. Typically the area is then disinfected or rinsed out before being sealed and moving to the restoration phase. Laser treatment: We can use lasers to complement the traditional root canal methods, or even replace drills and files entirely. A laser can create the access opening in the top of the tooth, remove the decayed pulp, sterilize the area, and reshape the walls of the root canal if necessary. Gummy Smile An extreme case of gummy smile. Credit: Ramu coolhimesh. This application refers to the gum condition in which teeth appear to look shorter than they should due to the presence of excess gum tissue. Traditional treatment: For many years, gummy smiles were treated with gum lifts, in which excess gum is removed with a scalpel, and sutures are placed to stop the resultant bleeding afterward. Laser treatment: We perform gum lifts using a soft tissue laser that vaporizes and removes the excessive gum tissue along the edge of your teeth with much less bleeding than with a scalpel. Canker Sores and Cold Sores Most people have experienced at least one small yet painful sore inside their cheek or lip or at the base of their gums known as a canker sore. They’re believed to be caused by stress, genes, or eating acidic foods such as pineapple. Cold sores are similar but form due to viral infections and can present inside the mouth or around the lips or face. Traditional treatment: There’s a wide variety of home remedies to treat canker and cold sores, but large and/or persistent sores can require a trip to the dentist. The dentist may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or antimicrobial mouth rinse. Laser treatment: With no anesthesia necessary, within minutes we can eradicate cold and canker sores with a soft tissue laser that destroys the viral infection and dries the area to promote healing. Benefits of Using Lasers In addition to the other benefits we’ve mentioned, dental lasers are able to reduce… patients’ anxiety by removing the sound and vibration of drills and the sight of scalpelsthe need for anesthesia, so that there are fewer lingering side effects or complications from treatmentsyour appointment time because they work so efficientlythe risk of infection via effective sterilization, making your treatment even saferyour recovery time, as you don’t have to wait for stitches to heal. Why Bunker Hill Dentistry? Dr. Le and his wife and office manager Ann Le Specialists – Our team–led by Dr. Le-is experienced in using lasers to diagnose and treat a number of dental conditions. Serene setting – Our office is designed to provide a calm, relaxing environment to help put your mind at ease during treatment. Take a tour. Client satisfaction – We have one mission – total client satisfaction. “Care, Comfort, Convenience”is our guarantee to every client. More about Bunker Hill Dentistry. Reception room at Bunker Hill Dentistry State of the art – We utilize other advanced technology such as the i-CAT 3D x-ray machine, All-On-4® implants and an anesthesia-delivery wand, for faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Conveniently located – Located in Memorial, just a short drive from Houston’s city center. Find us on the map. Risks of Lasers Laser dentistry carries minimal risk and is typically safer than traditional methods since it can replace drilling and cutting. However, it doesn’t always eliminate the need for anesthesia, which carries its own side effects and risks (nausea, anaphylaxis, sore throat). Essentially, the only risks are associated with unqualified or inexperienced practitioners of laser dentistry, who may cause pulp or gum damage if using the laser inappropriately. Lasers can also cause eye damage if directed into the eyes, but an experienced dentist will provide you with special glasses to protect you, and will also be responsible in all aspects of handling the laser device. When Is Laser Dentistry Not a Good Option? Lasers can’t be used in every dental treatment. For example, they can’t treat teeth with pre-existing dental work such as fillings, or restorations such as implants or dentures. They also can’t be used to prepare for or modify these types of restorations, such as removing dental crowns or prepping teeth for a bridge. Also, as laser therapy is typically more expensive than traditional dentistry, it may not be the best option if you’re on a tight budget. Is Laser Dentistry Covered by Insurance? Speaking of costs, you may be wondering if your insurance company will cover the costs of a dental treatment using lasers. As is often the case, it depends–insurance payouts are based on treatment procedures, not the methods or technology used. So you’ll need to check with your insurance provider after verifying that a laser can be used in a certain treatment to see whether that particular treatment is covered. Schedule An Appointment Not been to Bunker Hill Dentistry before? To help you prepare for your first visit, read our new patient information page.