Dental lasers have been on the market for years but are just beginning to fulfill their potential. Because many early adopters were burned when the technology was in its infancy, they are now reluctant to try the latest and greatest dental lasers. By shedding light on some common dental lasers myths, I hope this article dispels your fears about joining the rapidly growing laser-dentist population.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that not all dental lasers are created equal. My office utilizes Convergent Dental’s Solea laser to treat patients, and we’ve found that the CO2 laser’s unique 9.3-micron wavelength provides significant advantages over its predecessors. Although this laser was the right choice for my practice, it is important to exercise due diligence to find out which dental laser is the best fit for your practice
Myth #1: Speed (or Lack Thereof)
One of the primary complaints about dental lasers is that they are slow to cut hard tissue and procedures take longer than with a drill. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case. My laser’s new wavelength is so highly and efficiently absorbed in hydroxyapatite and water that it cuts at the approximately the same speed as a drill; and when you take into account that the majority of procedures are anesthesia-free, the overall time I spend per procedure is dramatically less with Solea.
I perform a wide variety of hard and soft tissue procedures, including cavity preps, removing old amalgam and composite fillings, crown lengthenings, troughing and gingivectomies, in the same or less time than with traditional tools.
Myth #2: Anesthesia-Free Applications Are Limited
This myth came about as a result of erbium lasers’ poor performance when it came to anesthesia-free procedures (except for the smallest of preps). I heard reports from the very best erbium users who said they were able to work anesthesia-free for about 50% of their hard tissue work, with the average dentist only getting to do about 20% of their procedures anesthesia-free. This coin-flip consistency made it almost impossible to provide a positive patient experience for each patient.
I perform more than 95% of my procedures anesthesia-free and blood-free. I attribute this to the laser’s wavelength, which allows for fast cutting at low settings, and computer controls that optimize the beam for the procedure I am doing. The dental laser is ubiquitous within my practice, and almost every patient receives treatment with the device. What’s more, I’m able to perform multi-quadrant dentistry and perform on-the-fly cavity preps while waiting for crowns from the lab, or on the same day we find cavities in a hygiene visit.
Operating anesthesia-free and blood-free has significantly increased production and acted as a major springboard for my practice. This is because of all the time I have recovered from not having to inject patients, wait for numbness, or control bleeding.
Myth #3: Dental Lasers Have Steep Learning Curves
Older dental lasers had steep learning curves. This is why so few were able to achieve consistent analgesia. To operate the laser, dentists had to understand a lot about laser’s physics and be able to decode terminology. More current lasers are dumping the laser jargon and using interfaces dentists are used to, such as variable speed foot pedals and different spot sizes that are more like the burs we are used to. For instance, with Solea, I just select a tissue type and a spot size then I vary pressure on the foot pedal to get the cutting speed I want. That’s all there is to it. When I first started using my laser, there were virtually no major shifts in my workflow, which helped me become comfortable with the device almost immediately.
Myth #4: Dental Lasers’ Value is Overstated
Many dentists look into dental lasers and are immediately intimidated by the price. This makes sense, considering that in the more than 20 years that lasers have been on the market, they have never lived up to the hype. But now that hurdle has been cleared, it’s time dentists rethink how they invest in their practice.
If I were to tell you that there was a device you could purchase that pays for itself in 6 months or generates enough revenue to beat its monthly payment in the first month, you would buy it, right? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with Solea in my practice. By virtually eliminating anesthesia and bleeding, my laser has allowed me to do more dentistry. I am now doing 6 more procedures a day than I was before I had Solea. The improvement in patient experience is obvious because my patients don’t avoid appointments; in fact, they sit for more than they ever would have before. The effect on new patient flow is what you would expect, and is nothing short of tremendous! While dental lasers are by no means a magic bullet for a failing practice, they are powerful tools that can have an immediate impact on dentists’ bottom line.
The rubber is meeting the road within the dental laser market and many smart dentists are seeing their revenues grow as they integrate the technology into their own practice. Dentists that have not evaluated dental lasers in recent years need to give the technology another look because the benefits are proven and irrefutable.