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What Is Laser Dentistry? Costs, Benefits, & How It Works

For most people, the dreaded part of dental work is the drilling and the numbing shots that last for hours. Here’s the good news: there are better options! It’s possible to treat cavities and other oral health problems naturally without dental drills or toxic chemicals.

Using lasers, your dentist can do many traditional dental procedures. With laser treatments, dentists can save more of your own tooth structure and gum tissue. Best of all, most procedures are done without anesthetic, unlike traditional treatments.

Laser dentistry: what is it?

Laser is actually an acronym, short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Lasers turn energy into incredibly bright, focused light that’s a single wavelength. They’ve been around since the 1960s, but they weren’t used in dentistry until the 1990s.

Laser dentistry uses light energy to treat and diagnose dental problems. It’s used on both soft tissues like gums and hard tissues, such as the teeth and jaw. Most laser dental procedures are vastly superior to their traditional counterparts that rely on drills or scalpels.

Dental lasers are ideal when a dentist or periodontist wants to minimize damage to surrounding tissue and speed up healing and recovery time.

Is laser treatment safe for teeth? Yes, laser treatment is safe for teeth. Dental lasers are FDA-approved to treat many oral health conditions and cause less damage to teeth and gums than traditional treatments.

How Are Lasers Used In Dentistry?

Dental lasers are used in many types of treatments, including preventative dental care and cosmetic dentistry. The light beam from the laser is focused on the target tissue to perform the laser procedure.

The laser cuts or ablates the tissue being treated in soft-tissue treatments, instantly sealing off the cut. When treating hard tissues like eliminating tooth decay, it vaporizes the affected tooth structure, removing the tissue like a dental drill would.

A high-performance laser, such as the Fotona Lightwalker, can perform many of the same procedures as traditional tools, but with less pain and greater precision. This leads to better patient comfort and minimal damage to existing dentition.

Dental laser systems can be used to treat:

  • Gum disease and periodontal issues
  • Tooth decay or cavities (dental caries)
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Canker sores
  • Cold sores
  • Nerve injuries to the face or jaw
  • Dental cavitations
  • Sleep apnea, where lasers are used to help reshape the back of the throat to prevent the tissue from blocking the airway during sleep

Lasers are also used to perform dental procedures such as:

  • Root canals
  • Teeth whitening
  • Biopsies of suspicious tissue
  • Crown lengthening and gum reshaping, which treats both the gums and bone to help dental crowns fit properly

How does laser dentistry work? Laser dentistry works by focusing a high-energy light beam on the soft or hard tissues of the mouth to treat oral health problems like cavities or periodontal disease.

What is the difference between laser treatment and a traditional filling? The difference between laser treatment and a traditional filling is how the decayed tooth tissue is removed, either with a dental laser or a dental drill. Laser treatments also remove less healthy tooth tissue.

Types Of Lasers

There are two main types of dental lasers: soft-tissue lasers and hard-tissue lasers.

Soft-tissue lasers are used to treat the gums, tongue, and other soft parts of the mouth. These lasers are tuned to wavelengths that water and hemoglobin absorb, two molecules that are abundant in soft tissues. (Hemoglobin helps blood carry oxygen and gives it its red color.)

Laser treatments on the bony parts of the mouth (the teeth and jaw) use hard-tissue lasers. They target the water molecules in the enamel and dentin to vaporize thin layers of a decayed tooth. The treated tooth can then be repaired with a composite dental filling.

Benefits And Drawbacks

Like any dental treatment, laser dentistry has its pros and cons. Overall, the benefits of laser dentistry far outweigh the drawbacks, which is why biological dentists use lasers in their practices frequently.

Benefits Of Laser Dentistry

What are the benefits of laser dentistry? The benefits of laser dentistry include:

  • A faster healing time. Dental procedures using laser technology heal faster than the same procedure done using traditional treatments.
  • Less pain and bleeding. Dental lasers seal off blood vessels and nerve endings as they cut into soft tissue, resulting in less bleeding and minimal discomfort after the procedure.
  • Leaving healthy tissue intact. Cavity treatments with dental drills remove some healthy tooth tissue. Laser treatments only remove the decayed parts of the tooth, which means you get to keep more of your natural tooth.
  • Early detection of dental issues. Lasers can detect cavities, bacteria, and other dental problems at earlier stages than other methods. For example, they can often detect tooth decay before it can be spotted on an x-ray or during a routine checkup.
  • No need for sutures. Some dental procedures like soft-tissue biopsies need sutures when done using traditional methods. When dentists or oral surgeons use a laser for these procedures, no sutures are required.

Is laser dentistry better? Laser dentistry can be better than traditional methods in many ways. It’s generally less painful, it causes less damage to healthy tissues, and most people heal faster compared to traditional dental surgery.

Drawbacks Of Laser Dentistry

There are a few downsides to laser dentistry, including:

  • You can’t use a laser to treat cavities between the teeth.
  • Laser treatments tend to be more expensive than traditional dental treatments.
  • Laser dentistry doesn’t completely eliminate the need for dental drills. You may still need to use traditional drilling methods for large cavities or shaping fillings once they’re placed.
  • Laser dentistry can’t be used on teeth that already have a filling or other dental work. Lasers also can’t be used on dental implants or dentures.
  • Some laser dental procedures can’t be done without anesthesia. In these cases, you still may need numbing shots.
  • Laser treatments have a potential risk of eye damage. It’s essential to wear the special glasses your dentist will give you before lasers are used in your dental procedure.
  • There’s a potential risk of damaging the tissues in your mouth. This can occur if your dentist uses the wrong laser. Always make sure your dentist is trained in the use of dental lasers before undergoing treatment.

What To Expect During Laser Dentistry

Most laser dentistry procedures are very similar to the corresponding dental procedure. For example, if your dentist is treating a cavity using a dental laser, they will go through the same process as a traditional filling, but they’ll swap the drill for a laser to remove tooth decay.

Depending on the procedure your dentist is performing, you may still need anesthetic to numb your mouth. For example, very shallow cavities may not need any numbing shots, but deeper cavities will.

Once your mouth is prepared for the procedure, your dentist will use a laser to perform the treatment. In the case of cavities, they’ll use the laser to remove tooth decay. You may hear popping noises, which is the laser vaporizing the decayed parts of your tooth.

After removing the decayed tooth, your dentist will fill the cavity like they would if they were using a dental drill. In most cases, they’ll use a composite resin for the filling. Dentists often need to use a drill to shape and polish the composite, even in laser procedures.

Most patients have less pain after laser dental procedures compared to the same procedure performed with traditional treatments.  Laser treatments help the nerves in your mouth heal faster, speeding up the time it takes to get back to normal.

How much does a laser filling cost? A laser filling usually costs 1.5x to 2x as much as a traditional filling. Your dental insurance will often cover a large portion of the cost, but check with your specific insurance provider or dentist to get an estimate of what you’ll pay out-of-pocket.

Ready For Cutting-Edge Dentistry?

Rejuvenation Dentistry uses dental lasers for many of our procedures, including periodontal therapy, dental fillings, and root canals. As biological dentists, we incorporate cutting-edge natural treatments like lasers and ozone therapy to treat common oral health problems.

Contact us to learn how we use laser therapy in our dental practice and how laser treatment can keep you comfortable as we repair your teeth and gums and promote your oral health naturally. Book a consultation with our dental offices in Manhattan or East Hampton for more information.


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  3. Walsh L. J. (2003). The current status of laser applications in dentistry. Australian Dental Journal, 48(3), 146–198. Abstract:
  4. Kathuria, V., Dhillon, J. K., & Kalra, G. (2015). Low Level Laser Therapy: A Panacea for oral maladies. Laser Therapy, 24(3), 215–223. Abstract:

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