While laser dentistry has been around for a number of years, the concept still feels a little like science fiction to us. After all, we’re talking about using light rays on teeth instead of a drill—it’s amazing, really.
Tech-savvy dentists are now using lasers for lots of purposes, like addressing periodontal disease1, soothing tooth sensitivity2, healing bone tissue3, and treating other issues like dry socket4.
OraWellness founders Will and Susan here. Today, we’re going to talk about using lasers to address dental cavities5. Plenty of studies have explored this topic6. However, rather than diving into the scientific literature, we’re going to share our own personal experiences and explain several reasons why we believe lasers are superior to the drill.
That said, our #1 litmus test for a dental team has nothing to do with whether or not they use lasers in their office. Instead, what matters most to us is whether they have a ‘helper’s heart’ and whether they’re willing to honor you as the captain of your oral health journey. If you need help finding a great dental team, we encourage you to read our article, “Helpful resources to find a qualified dentist to assist you“.
With that in place, let’s take a look at the first benefit of lasers in dentistry.
Laser benefit #1: Less physical discomfort
Dental drills are placed directly onto the tooth surface. They produce uncomfortable heat, pressure, and vibrations that can be traumatic and painful to the sensitive nerves in our mouth.
In contrast, a dental laser works by producing short light pulses, and it doesn’t actually make direct contact with the teeth or gums. That’s why dental lasers are less painful than drills–there’s no heat, pressure, or vibrations to cause physical discomfort.
Susan here. Like many people, I visit the dentist’s office a couple of times every year. I know how to optimally support my oral health nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case. Since my teenage years, I’ve had plenty of fillings applied and replaced, some several times on the same tooth. I’ve had fillings that lasted for only 4 years and others that lasted for 15.
Ultimately, it seems they do need to be replaced over time (some sooner than others).
In recent years, I’ve noticed a major advancement in the method some dentists choose for preparing teeth for a new filling. I’ve had several dental office visits now where the entire procedure was done with a laser, and because there was no vibration from a dreaded drill, I didn’t have any discomfort during the process.
This leads me to another advantage of dental lasers: because I haven’t had any discomfort, I’ve found it unnecessary to get any anesthetics before the dentist works on a tooth.
Laser benefit #2: No numbing agents
In past appointments that involved a drill, in order to avoid feeling the discomfort of the drilling process, I absolutely would have considered a numbing injection before the filling work began.
However, with a laser, it’s different. I’ve now had several filling-related appointments during which the dentist worked on my teeth with a laser, and I’ve never experienced any nerve irritation during or after the procedure.
In fact, I was able to enjoy a drink and a snack at a local organic cafe immediately after those appointments. My mouth was fully functional because it wasn’t numbed, and my face and lips didn’t feel swollen. In addition, my liver was not challenged to take on the body burden of processing any anesthetics.
Laser benefit #3: Less mental discomfort
Another important consideration is mental discomfort (especially if you already have dental appointment anxiety).
Will here. Have you ever felt like the dental drill’s vibrations go directly into your brain? Maybe I’m just being melodramatic, but to me, it has sometimes felt like my entire awareness was consumed by the vibration of the drill against my teeth.
If you think about our anatomy, it kind of makes sense. Our teeth are bones embedded in more bone, in our head. So, anything that vibrates a tooth is going to reverberate throughout the skull. That’s why drill vibrations can be so disagreeably distracting.
On the other hand, the dental laser tool never touches the teeth, so it creates a much more peaceful filling preparation experience (with zero stress-inducing ringing throughout the skull).
Also, who likes that unnerving, shrill sound of the drill?
While the sound of a dental drill can scare even the bravest of us, a dental laser is quiet—all you’ll hear is the beeping of the machine.
Laser benefit #4: Precision and peace of mind
Speaking of psychological benefits, the laser’s capabilities give us a little more peace of mind than the drill. Here’s why…
Drills can wind up removing both decay and surrounding healthy tooth tissue. That weakens the overall tooth structure. In some cases, this can even make teeth more prone to cracks.
On the flip side, dental laser light beams are very precise. They give the dentist more control to remove decay with minimal (if any) impact to the healthy tooth tissue around that area.
Laser benefit #5: They sterilize the worksite
When a traditional drill is used for dental work, the tooth’s drill site has to be cleaned before the area is sealed back up. In our experience, that hasn’t been necessary with a laser. Lasers remove the decaying tissue, and they simultaneously clean the area to prepare it for the new filling material.
While the dental team may still choose to use an additional cleansing agent (our preference is ozone gas), laser light actually sterilizes both the area that’s being worked on and the immediate surrounding structure of that tooth.
Thanks to the laser’s ability to cleanse as it works, we can avoid the chemicals that a dentist would typically use to prep a filling site after drilling. At the same time, the laser also helps reduce the risk of accidentally entombing decay-causing bacteria under a newly placed filling.
As patients, we’ve found laser dentistry to be a better experience all around, and thankfully, it’s becoming more and more common. From now on, we’ll seek to only work with dentists who have incorporated lasers into their practice.
We hope that sharing our perspective here helps you to continue to navigate your path to greater oral health.
What about you? Have you had any experiences with laser dentistry (positive or negative)? Please share your thoughts in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.
Helpful, related resources:
- Step One of Upgrading Your Oral Health: (Re)Defining Roles [article]
- Helpful resources to find a qualified dentist to assist you [article]
- How to use essential oils to reduce dental appointment anxiety and pain [article]
- 3 reasons why you want your dentist to use ozone in their practice [article]
- 1 – LASER in periodontal treatment: is it an effective treatment or science fiction?
- 2 – Phototherapy Using Er,Cr:YSGG Laser as a Definitive Treatment for Dentin Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review
- 3 – Effectiveness of Photobiomodulation Therapy on Human Bone Healing in Dentistry: A Systematic Review
- 4 – Efficacy of Laser Therapy for Alveolar Osteitis: A Systematic Review of the Available Evidence
- 5 – Laser restorative dentistry in children and adolescents
- 6 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=laser+caries
- Investigational study of the use of Er:YAG laser versus dental drill for caries removal and cavity preparation–phase I
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