Dentistry has become quite effective in the treatment of gum disease. That doesn't mean, though, that we've exhausted all the possibilities for further innovation. One avenue in particular shows great promise for even better treatment outcomes in the future: the use of lasers.
Using lasers for dental treatment isn't a new idea. The first such application happened around 50 years ago. There's a new impetus, however, to include lasers as a regular part of gum disease treatment based on excellent results garnered in the last few years.
The treatment goal for gum disease remains a constant: to comprehensively remove dental plaque and tartar (which harbors dental plaque) from all oral surfaces. Plaque is a bacterial film that accumulates on teeth and leads to tartar formation, which both triggers a beginning infection and fuels its advance. By thoroughly removing plaque and tartar, we can stop an infection.
The conventional method for removing plaque and tartar, which we still rely on today, depends on manual instruments called scalers and ultrasonic equipment that loosens plaque and tartar through sound vibration. Deeper infections often require surgical access of the infected areas through the gums.
Although effective, we may damage or remove healthy tissue while manually removing plaque, tartar, and diseased tissue, which can cause bleeding, swelling and some discomfort for the patient afterward. This is precisely where a dental surgical laser could make the greatest difference.
A laser (an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission radiation) is essentially a device that produces an intense, narrow light beam on a single wavelength capable of highly precise cutting, burning or abrading. In treating gum disease, lasers take the place of manual tools for removing plaque and infection.
Lasers appear to be more precise while removing diseased tissue (and killing harmful bacteria), while causing less harm to healthy tissue than conventional treatment tools. Lasers also foster clot formation, which can result in less bleeding.
Studies so far are showing that laser gum treatments are as effective as conventional means, but with less bleeding and tissue trauma. A majority of patients report less discomfort and recovery time after laser treatment.
We're still some studies away before lasers become standard equipment in dental offices. But if the data holds up, lasers may one day be the treatment of choice for gum disease.
If you would like more information on treatments for gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Gum Disease With Lasers.”