Dental Technology

Dental technology is the art, science and technology of designing and manufacturing corrective devices for and replacements of natural teeth and/or treatment of dental related diseases and injuries
The profession of dental technology is an art because each restoration is unique to each patient. The restoration must imitate or improve the beauty and the function of the patient’s natural dentition and be in harmony with the rest of the system.

Dental Technology is a science that is advancing rapidly. In order to fabricate the fixed or removable dental prostheses, dental professionals must have a keen knowledge and understanding of tooth anatomy, masticatory functions and the materials and processes utilized in the creation of such devices. A variety of high-tech materials, such as zirconia, ceramics (i.e. lithium disilicate, feldspatic porcelains), plastics (i.e. PMMA, acrylics, and composite resins) and metal alloys (i.e. metal substructures, implants, attachments, and wires) are utilized.

Driven by technology today more than ever. In the past decade, technology has taken over dentistry. In fact, the biggest dental advancements came from the field of dental technology in the form of computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies. Today, CAD/CAM is utilized as an integral part of the dental office everyday practice. With these technological advances and those to come, there is a very high demand for dental technology to design and assist in manufacturing of CAD/CAM restorations. Because of these advances, aspiring dental professional should take courses in computer skills and programming.

Air Abrasion

When most people think of the dentist, they imagine the sound of the dental drill. That’s because whether preparing a tooth for a dental crown, removing cavities or performing root canal therapy, dentists have relied on this time-tested technology for years. However, modern dentists also have a newer option for removing portions of the tooth structure without that familiar whir: air abrasion.

Air abrasion is a method for removing tooth decay with tiny particles of aluminum oxide or silica — imagine a miniature sandblaster gently wearing away the decayed material without the friction of a drill. Your dentist uses compressed air to spray a stream of the sand-like particles at the affected tooth while an assistant generally suctions away the excess. Because air abrasion, or microabrasion, is most commonly used to prepare a tooth for a tooth filling, it is also often referred to as kinetic cavity preparation.
During your appointment, your dentist will generally provide safety goggles to protect your eyes from the spray of particles. He or she will also take steps to shield the surrounding teeth, to avoid unintentional wear of healthy tooth surface. A rubber dam may also be placed around the teeth not being treated. However, some dentists opt to use a protective layer of resin to achieve the same effect.

In addition to removing tooth decay, dentists often use air abrasion to prepare a tooth for dental sealants or dental bonding. Old composite resin fillings can often be removed with the technique as well. In some cases, air abrasion can even be used to gently remove stains on the tooth surface.
Air abrasion also requires less of the tooth be removed, which may reduce your discomfort or lessen the need for an anesthesia injection. Best of all, multiple parts of your mouth can often be treated in one appointment, which may mean fewer appointments.

Autoclave

If there was a “Cleanest Person in the World Award,” dentists could definitely be candidates, because they don’t just clean teeth. They also make sure everything in their office is clean and their instruments are sanitized — as they should be.

Dentists and medical professionals are required to sterilize their instruments to protect both patients and practitioners from possible infectious diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association (ADA) require specific heat sterilization processes for dental offices to follow.
Steam Autoclave Sterilizer — This type of sterilizer commonly uses heated, vaporized water, or steam in layman’s language, to sterilize. Autoclaves can also kill microorganisms with various other methods. Though steaming is the most popular method of sterilization used all over the world, it has a few disadvantages. Steam autoclave sterilizers can deteriorate some unprotected instruments.

Dry Heat Autoclave — Because this uses dry heat, as its name implies, it is used for instruments that can be damaged by moisture.

Gas Autoclave — Also known as chemiclaves, these sterilize with a vapor solution in low humidity. It requires less heat-up time and are generally used for instruments that may be damaged by heat such as plastic, rubber and fiber optic devices.

Cold Sterilization Autoclave — This was developed for high-level disinfection using a cold sterilization liquid.
Ultraviolet Autoclave — This sterilizer produces UV light that kills microorganisms.

Aside from sterilization, dentists follow other cleanliness and safety guidelines set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect not just dentists and their staff, but also their patients from injury and illness. The use of gloves, for example, is one such measure.

If you ever feel uneasy about the infection control practices of your dentist’s office, don’t hesitate to talk to them. The ADA also recommends being observant of the office environment and staff habits. Besides sterilizers and disposing of everything used in a patient’s mouth, a good dental office must have or do the following:

  • – A clean and orderly office
  • – Use gloves and other protective gear during dental treatment
  • – Promptly wash hands before wearing a clean pair of gloves
  • – Dispose of needles and other sharp objects in puncture-resistant containers

You have every right to ensure that we can guarantee a clean and germ-free environment for you.

Bitewing X-rays

Bitewing X-rays are useful for seeing tooth decay between teeth, detecting gum disease and assessing tooth alignment.

Dental X-rays are an important part of the dental exam, used to diagnose problems with the teeth, gums and jaw. X-rays use electromagnetic radiation to produce these images — they form wavelengths that penetrate the soft tissue of the body and are absorbed by denser materials, creating pictures of your bones or teeth. And since your dentist doesn’t have X-ray vision, they’re necessary to distinguish dental problems not visible to the naked eye.

Tooth decay, periodontal disease, impacted teeth, bite problems and even tumors are just a few of the dental conditions easily found with dental X-rays.

Bitewings are a type of dental X-rays used to check the back teeth. As they show the crown of the tooth, bitewing X-rays are extremely helpful in determining tooth decay located in between teeth, various stages of gum disease and problems with tooth alignment. Bitewings are also excellent for detecting a buildup of dental tartar, and are sometimes used to measure bone loss due to advanced periodontal disease.

Bitewings get their name from how they look: The film resembles a “T-shape” that’s placed on the interior side of the jaw. The film extends to cover both the upper and lower teeth, and the patient bites a tab in the middle to hold the film in place. After the dental hygienist positions the bitewing in the mouth, the patient closes his or her teeth to secure the film. An X-ray camera is then used to photograph several teeth at once.

Regardless, bitewings are a standard fixture among dental practices. Once an initial full set of X-rays are taken, bitewings are used during interval checkups to look for changes in the teeth and gums.

Taking bitewings is a quick and painless process, and the film is usually ready for the dentist to view in just a few minutes. Although you can’t feel the X-ray waves, holding the film in place can be uncomfortable for some. Anxious patients may feel a slight pinching against the roof of their mouth or a gagging sensation. If that happens, the dental hygienist may be able to reposition the film and have you breathe through your nose to make you more comfortable.

CEPH – Cephalometric X-ray

A CEPH X-ray captures the image of your entire skull to help diagnose and plan treatment for TMJ, sleep apnea and orthodontic work.

If you’ve ever visited a dentist, chances are you’re familiar with a dental X-ray. The most common are bitewing X-rays, which detect tooth decay, dental tartar and gum disease. But there are actually several types of dental X-ray images used to diagnose dental problems that aren’t visible to the naked eye. One of these is called a cephalometric X-ray, or a CEPH.

CEPH X-ray pictures capture images of the entire skull and profile. CEPH is most often used by orthodontists to diagnose problems with your jaw and bite that might improve with orthodontic tools such as dental braces. This type of dental X-ray also allows the dentist to measure irregularities in your facial profile.
If your dentist or orthodontist recommended that you have a CEPH, you might be wondering how it can help and exactly what you can expect from the dental X-ray experience. Here’s some information we hope will help answer your questions.

CEPH is an extraoral X-ray, which means the film is outside the mouth. These types of images look for impacted teeth, monitor growth and development of the jaws in relation to the teeth, and identify potential problems between teeth and jaws and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) or other bones of the face. The CEPH X-ray is used in the following areas of dental care:

Orthodontic Planning — An orthodontist uses CEPH X-ray pictures to diagnose misalignment of the jaw and bite problems. A CEPH X-ray is used primarily for treatment planning. Once the dental X-ray image is taken, the dentist can trace the CEPH to calculate how your jaw and surrounding bone will be affected by dental treatment.
Sleep Apnea Treatment — CEPH X ray pictures of the skull provide a view of a person’s airways.

Taking a CEPH X-ray is very similar to taking a Panorex X-ray, which is a single picture of all your teeth and surrounding bones. CEPH X-ray pictures are taken on a standard panoramic machine equipped with a cephalometric film-holding arm mounted off to one side. Many dental offices have the machinery and equipment necessary to take CEPH X-ray pictures.

During the X-ray, you will wear a lead apron to protect you from radiation and the technician will position you as needed inside the dental X-ray machine. The process is quick — about 10 seconds — and the image is developed in less than 10 minutes. Best part? It’s totally painless!

As with other types of X-ray pictures, CEPH can be taken on conventional radiographic film or it can be developed using digital radiography. Digital images are quicker, use less radiation and can be enhanced, enlarged and shared via computer.

CEREC

CEREC or Cerec (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, or Ceramic Reconstruction is a method of CAD/CAM dentistry for creating dental restorations. Using CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing), this process allows dentists to construct, produce, and insert individual ceramic restorations directly at the point of treatment (chairside) in a single appointment, rather than over multiple appointments with labside work in between.

Traditional restorative dentistry requires several visits by the patient, who must endure extensive drilling, the rubbery impression material in her mouth, a fragile temporary restoration, and a two-to-four week wait for the laboratory to fabricate the crown. The second visit can be complicated with fit and color inaccuracies, adding time to rectify these problems.

The CEREC procedure only removes the contaminated material, preserving healthy tooth structure. The dentist has complete control over timing, fit and color, and your procedure is done in just one visit, in as little as an hour.
During a chairside treatment, the dentist carries out all the steps, from digital impressions and computer-based construction of the restoration to the milling process, inside their office. The dentist uses an intraoral camera to take a photo of the preparation, the antagonist teeth, and the bite situation. Based on the images, the CEREC software creates a virtual model of the patient’s tooth situation. The dentist uses this model to construct the tooth restoration on the screen and then passes on the finished construction within the office’s network or sends it wirelessly to a milling machine. Depending on the type of restoration, it is then milled out of a color-matched ceramic block in just 6 to 15 minutes using diamond-coated milling units. The dentist can then add the finishing touches to the restoration by painting, polishing, and glazing it, before cementing it (the more traditional option) or adhesively integrating it, depending on the type of ceramic used.

CEREC technology makes it possible to produce and integrate ceramic restorations in a single appointment. Unlike other materials such as amalgam or gold, ceramic is more biocompatible and boasts tooth-like physical and aesthetic qualities. In addition, digital impressions are more comfortable for patients than traditional impressions.

By further developing the process, it was possible to reduce the amount of follow-up work and time-intensive occlusion adjustment that was often necessary in the past. According to studies, the ten-year lifespan of CEREC inlays polished and milled with the aid of a computer is not only significantly longer than that of gold inlays, but also exceeds that of individually laboratory-manufactured ceramic inlays.

The digital mapping technology of CEREC that charts the inside of the patient’s mouth completely accurately and down to the last detail ensures that there is no issue with inaccurate dental impressions that lead the patient to experience discomfort with bulky molds and unnecessary debris in their mouth.

Computer Imaging for Dental Crowns

Computer imaging for crowns gives you a sneek peak at how you might look with a dental crown.
If only the dentist had a crystal ball you could look into to see just how much better your smile would look if your teeth weren’t cracked, missing or discolored. It might help you realize how important something like a dental crown could be for your appearance — and your self-esteem.

Although your dentist can’t see into the future, he or she can give you a sneak peek into what your smile might look like after cosmetic and restorative procedures. Many cosmetic dentists offer what’s called computer imaging. This technology creates “before” and “after” pictures of you with and without recommended treatments. That comes in handy when you’re trying to decide if the expense and time involved with a procedure such as a dental crown is actually worth it.

Dental crowns are commonly used in combination with other cosmetic dentistry techniques such as veneers and teeth whitening to create a smile makeover. The process of computer imaging for dental crowns is very simple. Your cosmetic dentist will take images of your face, teeth and smile using a digital camera. These images are scanned into a computer, then software is used to manipulate the images to show you how you might look after placement of a dental crown.

Computer imaging offers before and after pictures to help you see how dental crowns can improve your smile.
Computer imaging for dental crowns is the first step in the restorative process. Once you and your dentist decide which type of dental crown is best for you, your dentist will need to prepare the tooth and place the dental crown. This usually takes two visits to complete, unless your dentist uses a dental tool such as CEREC®, which can prepare a dental crown in a single visit.

Computer imaging for crowns should be used merely as a guide to help you envision what you might look like after dental treatment. The real thing may be different from a picture. But the process of computer imaging allows you to start a conversation with your dentist about the way you’d like your smile to look and the procedures that might help get you there.

Dental Microsurgery

Dental microsurgery is basically dental surgery that utilizes a dental microscope and fiber optic lighting system. Dentists use a Dental Operating Microscope (DOM) to magnify the area, giving them a more precise view of the procedure. Because magnification spreads light out, making the area appear darker, many dental microscopes also include a fiber optic light to illuminate the area more thoroughly than traditional overhead light sources.
Dental Microsurgery can be used to enhance any dental procedure but is most often reserved for more complex oral surgery cases. Dentists often take advantage of dental microsurgery in the following cases:

  • – The placement of dental implants
  • – Locating the tooth’s roots and infection during root canal procedures
  • – An apicoectomy, where the root’s tip is surgically removed to treat a root canal
  • – Periodontal surgery or gum disease treatment
  • – Locating small cracks or defects in the tooth

The removal of dental restorations and instruments, including files, posts and fillings that need to be dislodged during endodontic retreatment.

The utilization of dental microsurgery could also lower the occurrence of failed dental treatments, which means less need for retreatment. For these reasons, the dental community is starting to embrace the use of dental microsurgery.

Dental Unit Waterlines

Dental unit waterlines are an important part of a dentist’s toolkit and are used during almost every dental visit.
Dental unit waterlines are a small but essential element of dentistry. You’ll use it throughout your trip to the dentist. With research that shows biofilms can develop on dental unit waterlines, there is still no evidence that this presents a health risk to the patient. Since it does happen, dentists keep a keen eye on the health of their practice and quality of water.

Dental unit waterlines are thin tubes that are used to deliver water during dental treatment. We have all gotten enough dentistry done in the past to be familiar with these elements of dental technology. Dental unit waterlines are used in a variety of ways in dental treatment. The small-bore plastic tubing “delivers coolant water for high-speed dental hand-pieces, air-water syringes and ultrasonic scalers.”

Like any piece of dental equipment, dental unit waterlines must be kept clean in order to maintain the health of the patient. Because of the nature of dental unit waterlines, there is a possibility of “water coming into buildings from city water supplies or wells that is not sterile and contains a number of waterborne bacteria.”
Biofilm is a type of bacteria or fungi that can be found anywhere. Areas where there is moisture and a suitable host (like in dental unit waterlines) are more susceptible to microbes/germs called biofilm that adhere to surfaces to form a protective slime layer. This can happen occasionally because water used by dental offices comes from city sources.

In order to avoid the collection of biofilms, the American Dental Association has put forth guidelines to keep patients healthy. First of all, water must meet a certain standard with respect to concentrations of contaminants and chemicals. Today, more and more dentists are using improvised dental unit waterlines.
Bacterial problems are less of a problem as technology is advancing. Improved quality includes using “independent water reservoirs, chemical treatment regimens, daily draining and air-purging regiments and point-of-use filters.”

DIAGNOdent®

The DIAGNOdent® laser uses advanced dental technology to find tiny dental cavities.
Were you ever really good at playing hide and seek? Well, cavities are good at hiding, too. In fact, they hide in places even dental X-rays can’t find. You may think these dental caries have the best hiding skills, but they’re really no match for DIAGNOdent’s dental cavity-detection power.

DIAGNOdent is a device dentists use to find even small amounts of tooth decay at the earliest stages using laser dentistry. Think of it as a laser cavity detector. The dentist uses a dental laser to scan zones where tooth decay is most likely to evade detection. When it detects any abnormality in the tooth, it fluoresces or emits a visible light and makes a beeping noise. The more tooth decay, the more visible light and the faster the beeps. Numerical readings are also shown on the display of the DIAGNOdent.

This tool provides dentists with immediate feedback — an advantage for both you and the dentist. Early detection of dental caries will mean a smaller tooth filling, faster appointments, and lower cost for dental treatment in the long run. Besides, wouldn’t you want your dental cavity detected as early as possible, before it becomes a pain in the tooth?

DIAGNOdent is proven to be 90% accurate and allows dentists to avoid unnecessary exploration of teeth that are suspected to have cavities. And when it teams up with the dental X-ray, no dental cavity can hide. X-rays find dental cavities in between teeth and on the roots, while DIAGNOdent easily finds surface cavities.

Digital Impression System

Thanks to the creation of the digital impression system, the need for traditional dental impressions may eventually be a thing of the past. Digital impressions use digital technology to create your dental restoration on a computer — no invasive trays or goop involved. In fact, digital impressions have all but eliminated the mess and discomfort often associated with dental impressions.

The digital impression system uses digital imaging to make your dental impressions. Wired to the digital impression system is a dental instrument that contains a tiny camera known as an intraoral scanner. Unlike the digital camera you have at home, the intraoral scanner takes multiple pictures of your tooth and the surrounding area; then it compiles the data to create a three-dimensional model of your dental restoration.

Once your tooth is prepared, it takes only minutes for your dentist to scan the area and create your dental restoration right on the computer screen. The final image is e-mailed to a technician to prepare the mold, who in turn sends it to a dental lab to create the final product. Digital imaging allows for the impressions to be sent to the lab immediately, resulting in a shorter turnaround time to produce your dental restoration.

There are several advantages to using the digital impression system. Digital impressions often mean less gagging, shorter dental appointments and a reduced margin of error associated with traditional dental impressions. Without the risk of saliva or debris compromising the results of your dental restoration, your dentist shouldn’t have to retake a dental impression or remake a crown.

Not only does the accuracy and precision of the digital impression system correct these dental problems, but it also creates less work for your dentist, who may not have to reshape your dental crown or bridge after receiving it from the lab. Want to know another neat fact? Digital impression systems are now being used to create same-day dental restorations, so you can have all of your work done in just one dental visit!

There are some drawbacks to digital impressions. Most digital impression systems have been designed to create permanent restorations, so using them to create dentures and partial dentures is out of the question — for now. As digital impression systems are also a major purchase for any dental office, the cost may be passed on to the consumer.

Regardless, dentists who do own a digital impression system are incredibly impressed by the technology. Patients love the comfort and convenience of it, too. While many dentists are discovering the advantages of this state-of-the-art dental technology, it has yet to catch on at most dental offices.

Digital Radiography

Digitial radiography exposes you to less radiation than traditional dental X-rays.
Dental technology has improved the way dentists practice their craft. Thanks to science, modern techniques allow patients to receive dental treatment without the pain and time associated with old-fashioned dentistry. Dental technology is even being developed to make dental X-rays safer and more convenient.

While dental X-rays emit low amounts of radiation and every precaution is taken to protect patients from exposure, some dental patients may still put off dental X-rays for safety reasons. Dental X-rays bring up other issues for patients, including the wait time for film to be developed and environmental concerns. Dentists are addressing these issues with digital radiography, a high-tech replacement for traditional dental X-rays.

The physical process for digital radiography is actually similar to traditional dental X-rays that use film: With digital radiography, your dentist inserts a sensor into your mouth to capture images of your teeth — but that’s where the similarities between conventional and digital dental X-rays end. Although it resembles the film used for bitewings and other X-rays, the digital sensor is electronic and connected to a computer. Once the X-ray is taken, the image is projected on a screen for your dentist to view.

There are several benefits to using digital radiography over traditional film X-rays:
Less Radiation — The equipment used in digital radiography exposes dental patients to much less radiation. In fact, digital X-rays use up to 90 percent less radiation than film X-rays. While conventional dental X-rays are relatively safe, digital radiography is an excellent option for those who take X-rays on a regular basis or for those who are concerned about radiation.

Shorter Dental Appointments — Digital radiography can also shorten your dental appointment! With traditional dental X-rays, you’ll have to wait while your dentist develops the film. With digital radiography, the sensor develops the picture almost instantly and projects it onto a computer screen right before your eyes.
Higher Quality Images — The standard size of traditional X-rays can make viewing difficult, but digital radiography has done away with the “one size fits all” mentality. Once on the screen, digital X-rays can be enlarged or magnified for a better visual of the tooth’s structure. Brightness, contrast and color can also be adjusted, allowing your dentist to see small cavities easier. If you need a hard copy of your X-ray, digital images can also be printed out.

Transferring Dental Records — Digital images can be e-mailed to a dental specialist for immediate review. Digital X-rays are taking away the expense and time needed to copy files and mail them to another dentist, making it easier to transfer dental records or get a second opinion. As more offices are turning to electronic patient charts, computers may eliminate the need to mail dental records altogether.

Environmentally Friendly — Digital dental X-rays are better for the environment! With digital radiography, no chemicals are used to develop film. There’s also no wasted space of a darkroom and no need to store film, which can pile up in a dentist’s files.

While digital radiography is helping many dentists diagnose your dental problems, additional software programs are making their lives even easier! One such program is called subtraction radiography, wherein dentists compare current images to previous images of the same tooth, helping them find even the smallest changes in your tooth’s structure.

Digital radiography is slowly gaining steam in the professional dental community. With the expense of digital radiography equipment, digital X-rays are an investment that the majority of our dental practices have yet to make. Currently, approximately 30 percent of all dental offices are using digital radiography. It’s estimated that by 2010 more than half of all dental offices will have this dental technology.

No matter what type of X-rays you choose, dental X-rays are important part of your regular dental visits. Dental X-rays are necessary to help diagnose problems not visible to the naked eye. If you’re concerned about radiation, talk to your dentist about your X-ray options.

h3>Digital Tomography

Like a CT scanner, digital tomography combines X-ray technology with a computer system to help your dentist better plan dental treatment.

Digital tomography (also known as computed tomography) combines classic X-ray technology with a computer system that processes the information. X-ray technology is used to take hundreds of images of your head. Computer programs can then read, interpret and even build virtual models based on these images.

Medicine has actually relied on this type of technology for years, in the form of a CT scanner. Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is the dental equivalent of a conventional medical CT scan, with a few notable differences. X-ray radiation exposure with CBCT is significantly less than that for medical CT scans — up to 10 times less! The CBCT scans themselves take much less time to perform. And while medical CT scanners are quite large and usually restricted to hospitals or dedicated diagnostic imaging centers, CBCT scanners are smaller and are often available right in your dentist’s office.

Having a CBCT scan doesn’t hurt. Although there are several different models, most units are square-like machines with a chair. You will be asked to sit in a normal, upright-seated position with your chin resting in a chin cup while a C-shaped arm rotates around your head. While the images are being taken, you will need to keep your eyes closed and remain as still as possible. The entire process takes less than a minute.

Traditional X-rays have their place. But digital tomography takes dental imaging to the next level. It produces less distorted, sharper images. Using CBCT, your dentist can now distinguish between bone, tooth, nerves and soft tissue. CBCT scans can also identify possible tumors and other diseases that don’t appear on traditional X-rays. These capabilities translate into more informed dental treatment plans and more successful dental procedures.

One of the most common dental treatments relying on digital tomography is dental implants. Before placing a dental implant, your dentist can use the CBCT images to evaluate the quality and thickness of your jaw bone. Digital tomography also allows your dentist to locate areas that should be avoided when placing your dental implant.
In addition to helping in the placement of dental implants, computed tomography provides your dentist with a wealth of information which can be used to:

  • – Plan orthodontic treatment
  • – Evaluate temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
  • – Diagnose jaw tumors
  • – Determine the presence of abnormal growths
  • – Diagnose periodontal disease
  • – Evaluate patients who have experienced dental trauma

Computed tomography does expose patients to radiation, as do all forms of dental X-rays. The level of exposure is equal to about 8 to 10 days’ worth of natural radiation exposure. That may sound like a lot, but compare it to the level of exposure from a medical CT scan, which exposes patients to about 10 months’ worth of naturally occurring radiation.

Since digital tomography is still a relatively new technology, it isn’t available everywhere. Plus, dentists must undergo special training to ensure correct interpretation of the images.

Diode Laser

Just one dental laser can correct a plethora of dental problems. The diode laser is used to treat gum disease, root canals and stained teeth, among other dental conditions.

Laser dentistry may seem like advanced technology, but dentists have long been enjoying its benefits. From gum disease treatment to laser root canal therapy, dental lasers have definitely found a home in the dentist’s office.
A dental laser isn’t as scary as you might imagine. It’s actually a fairly compact device that generates a precise beam of concentrated light energy via a very narrow fiber optic cord. When the light beam enters the targeted tissue, it “cuts” it away, essentially vaporizing it while leaving the surrounding area intact. The beam also sterilizes the area and coagulates blood vessels, which minimizes infection and bleeding. All this without the annoying sound of a drill or the pain of an incision!

Laser dentistry relies on several types of lasers, including those used for hard tissue (like teeth) and those used for soft tissue (like gums). One type of dental laser used specifically for cutting soft tissues in the mouth is called a diode laser. A diode laser can be used to correct a wide variety of dental problems including:

  • Canker Sores — Diode lasers can almost immediately reduce the pain of a canker sore breakout. Lasers can even reduce the recurrence of future breakouts.
  • Gum Disease — Diode lasers are used to remove diseased tissue and reshape the gums. The result is easier access to certain parts of the gum for improved oral hygiene.
  • Gum Reshaping — A diode laser can be used in soft tissue crown lengthening to reshape the gums and expose healthier tooth structure. This provides a stronger base for restorations such as a dental crown. The laser can also be used cosmetically to reshape the gum line and create a more balanced smile.
  • Laser Root Canal Therapy — The diode laser produces enough heat and pressure to melt away the infection within a tooth’s root without using drills or hand files.
  • Soft Tissue Care – Diode lasers are used to prevent gum disease from occurring in the first place. Diode lasers can remove tooth decay on the surface of a tooth’s root by removing the gum covering it up. The diode laser helps decontaminate deep gingival pockets that harbor the bacteria that can cause gum disease. And because the diode laser beam kills bacteria, it is also often used to sterilize areas of the mouth before or during treatment for cavities or a root canal.
  • Teeth Whitening — Laser teeth whitening is the fastest way to brighten your smile. This teeth whitening process takes about an hour.

If you undergo a dental treatment involving a diode laser, your dentist should provide you with glasses to protect your eyes from the laser’s rays. Healing time is often shorter and less complicated than with traditional techniques. These procedures are also much less invasive, usually achieving the same results without pain, bleeding or stitches. In fact, many patients undergo diode laser treatments without the use of local anesthesia.

Treatment with diode lasers is not usually covered by dental insurance plans, making it a potentially expensive choice. But dental lasers do offer you a nearly pain-free way to undergo several dental treatments. Less pain may mean less dental anxiety overall and a better chance that you’ll seek care in the future. Regular dental visits and good oral hygiene will help keep your teeth — and you — in good health.