(HealthNewsDigest.com).. The word laser might conjure thoughts of Star Wars, but lasers are no longer merely the subject of science fiction works. During the last two decades, lasers have permeated most fields of medicine, revolutionizing the way patients are diagnosed and treated.
An article in the May issue of AGD Impact, the newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), provides an explanation of how dental lasers work, what different types of lasers have been developed for dentistry and why some patients are considering laser surgery for their next dental procedure.
Advantages to using lasers are that dentists may not need to use a drill or administer anesthesia, allowing patients to enjoy a more relaxed dental experience. "Some lasers can anesthetize the tooth which can be of great value to people who cannot tolerate local anesthesia or are needle phobic," says AGD spokesperson Maharukh Kravich, DDS, FAGD.
Also, laser procedures can be more precise and can reduce symptoms and healing times associated with traditional therapies. Some dentists are using lasers for tooth whitening, removal of ulcers, periodontal (gum) therapy, cavity preparation and removal of the decay. In the future, laser technology may be used to prevent decay by increasing the strength of the tooth.
However, laser therapy cannot be used as an alternative for every procedure.
According to AGD spokesperson Eugene Antenucci, DDS, FAGD, "Lasers have been routinely used in dentistry since 1990." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed lasers safe for use on all patients.
At this time, about five percent of U.S. dentists use lasers according to laser manufacturers and related associations. Consumers seeking a dentist who uses lasers should verify the dentist has been properly trained, since there are no state laws requiring dentists to have training in the use of lasers.
"Make sure that your dentist has the right amount of training," encourages Dr. Kravich.
The Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) says dentists should have completed at least a Standard Proficiency level of competency according to the Curriculum Guidelines and Standards for Dental Laser Education.
The Academy of General Dentistry is a non-profit organization of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patient's oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.agd.org/consumer.