The development of lasers for all purposes had a big heyday in the late 80’s early 90’s. So what happened? For a while everybody was expecting that surgery was going to be performed with lasers exclusively by 2012. So what happened? The FDA approved of the medical use of lasers in 1997. So what happened?
Apparently people have just been afraid. The only form of laser surgery to penetrate the market has been Lasik brand eye surgeries. Conversely, a chronically underused appliance in dentistry is OptiDent. This laser is a very sensitive beam that is used for calculating mineral deposits, or the lack thereof, and is used to find pre-carries on the surface of teeth and stop them from developing into full-blown cavities. Aside from this, no laser technique has ever received the ADA approval as safe for use in dentistry. However some dentists, interviewed briefly in this article, have claimed that the ADA has been too cautious in their approval choices.
There are many benefits to using lasers instead of drills. Shallow cavities can be cleaned in a much shorter amount of time, without the noise and discomfort of a drill. Frequently no anaesthetic needs to be used, as there are no vibrations that might shock the nerve, and because the laser does not penetrate deep enough to be felt. They are also clean, need no sanitation, instantly cauterize wounds, and can cut quicker and of course, are entirely painless.
Robert Pick is an oral surgeon and the author of the new bo “Lasers in Oral Surgery”. He has been using these appliances experimentally for years. He claims that lasers have the above-mentioned advantages, and could become particularly handy in oral surgery. As blood can get in the way of seeing what you are doing, an instantly cauterized wound is an obvious asset to getting through the procedure quickly and more effectively. There is also no pain and no swelling involved with using dental lasers.
The main drawback? The cost is first and foremost, with lasers costing many times that of drills (drills cost around 600 dollars, while a laser costs between 25 and 45 thousand dollars). Lasers also cannot do a lot of the work that other tools can. Replacing an old filling for example, is impossible with a laser. Tooth preparations are also mentioned as being impossible to complete with a laser, and large cavities also cannot be treated. A dentist is quoted as saying he does not like lasers because there is no touch, a sensation vital to many dentists.
I guess this means that lasers perhaps are not the way to go at all? Perhaps lasers need the same revolution that many other products have had, and need to become cheaper and more accessible, and that way can be a tool, if not the only tool, in oral surgery.