Laser dentistry is a relatively new form of dental care. Laser Dentistry uses lasers to perform surgery, prepare cavities, and harden dental resins. This use of lasers has allowed dentists to perform tasks with less pain and with improved results. There are many different types of lasers used in the dentistry field. Theses lasers included the argon laser, the diode laser, the neodymium: yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) laser, the holmium: yttrium aluminum garnet (Ho:YAG) laser, the erbium: yttrium aluminum garnet (Er:YAG) laser, and the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser.
Each laser has different properties, such as wavelength, that allow the laser energy to be absorbed by different compounds. A laser that is well absorbed by water would be used on blanched tissue, and a laser that is well absorbed by skin pigments would be used on skin or gums. The argon laser is most commonly used on skin tissue because it well absorbed by melanin and hemoglobin. The argon laser operates at two wavelengths of 488nm and 514nm. The 488nm wavelength is used to catalyze dental resin polymerization.
This use of the argon laser allows for faster curing of dental resins, and causes the dental resin to have a strong bond to the tooth. The argon laser is also used for laser teeth whitening. One of the downsides of using the argon laser is that the laser requires a large amount of energy to create lasing, and to cool the laser cavity. The diode laser is a useful tool because it allows for a smaller more reliable unit. The diode laser operates at wavelengths of 820nm and 830nm. These wavelengths are absorbed by pigmented tissue. This laser is used on gums and other skin tissue for some types of dental surgery.
The diode laser is a very useful laser in dentistry because of its compact size. The Nd:YAG laser is the most commonly used laser in dentistry. The Nd:YAG laser operates at a wavelength of 1064nm. This wavelength is absorbed by both pigmented tissue and in water. The Nd:YAG laser is particularly important because it can operate in both continuous wave mode and in free-running pulse mode. Pulsing a laser is very important as it allows for the tissue being operated upon to cool thermally between each pulse. This makes the procedure much more comfortable for the patient.
This pulsing of the laser does not make the procedure take longer as each pulse is more powerful than the output would be in continuous wave mode. The Ho:YAG laser operates at 2120nm. This laser is well absorbed by water, and therefore is used on blanched tissue, and cartilage. This laser can be run in free-running pulsed mode just like the Nd:YAG laser to be more comfortable to the patient. The Er:YAG laser is very well absorbed by water, bone, and tooth enamel. This laser operates at a wavelength of 2940nm. The Er:YAG laser is used for a variety of different procedures. Cavity preparation is one of the Er:YAG laser most common tasks.
Other uses include hardening dental resins, and soft tissue surgery. The Er:YAG laser can be sent through and optic fiber or a hollow waveguide. This allows for the laser energy to be sent down a fiber and delivered to the patient. A water coolant must be used on the tooth. This is due to the fact that laser causes too much heat and would otherwise be painful if not damaging to the patient. The CO2 laser is absorbed highly by water and moderately absorbed by bone, and tooth enamel. This laser operates at 10. 6+m (10,600nm). The CO2 laser is used for rapid surgical procedures, cavity preparation, and tooth surface hardening.
The CO2 laser can not be delivered by an optical fiber. There are four different ways that the laser energy interacts with a surface. The first interaction is reflection. When the laser reflects off of a surface stray laser light can cause eye damage. For this reason both the patient and the dentist must wear protective eyewear. This eyewear is wavelength specific so a different pair of glasses may be needed depending on the laser that is being used. The second surface interaction is absorption. This is desired effect of the laser. The tissue that is being worked on absorbs the laser energy.
This absorption causes the cells to separate by either vaporizing cells or by causing micro-explosions. The third type of interaction is transmission. Transmission of the laser energy is a negligible effect. The energy of the laser is transmitted through the surface being worked on. This effect is negligible because the energy is very minimal due to absorption. The forth interaction is scattering. When the laser light is incident on a surface is will scatter over a larger area. This scattering is useful to harden dental resins, but as the light scatters its energy is greatly reduced. Lasers are a relatively new way of performing dental tasks.
The use of lasers is revolutionizing the dental field in many ways. Dental resins can be hardened faster and will hold stronger. Cavity preparation can be done without drills, which means less pain for the patient. Most procedures that would usually require painkillers can be done with only water as a coolant. Advanced surgical procedures will still require painkillers. Although the cost of the lasers themselves is high, as the technology advances the overall cost will come down. These are just a few of the reasons that laser dentistry will be growing in popularity over the next few years.