Is it true? Can I really get a dental filling without anesthesia? Yes. Laser dentistry has made this dream a reality. Clinical studies showed over 95% of all patients, both adults and children, required no anesthesia when the dental laser was used to treat decay. Lasers are letting dentists give patients what they want – or should we say what they “don’t” want; patients don’t want a shot, they don’t want a drill, and they don’t want a numb lip. So we’re “not” giving it to them.
I thought dentists were already using lasers. So what’s all the recent excitement about? Soft-tissue lasers have actually been used in dentistry for over ten years. But those soft-tissue lasers, which are used to trim gums and growth around the mouth, didn’t replace the use of needles and drills for fillings. Then, about six years ago, hard-tissue lasers emerged from Japan. These are the lasers you may be hearing more about recently because of their revolutionary effects on the dental industry, allowing dentists to replace the needles and drills used for fillings in most cases. Today’s lasers are being used to offer patients a safe and friendly alternative to the shot and drill.
If the no-anesthesia, hard-tissue lasers have been around for more than five years, why don’t more dentists use them? Good question. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of public education and demand. If the public isn’t informed about laser dentistry, how can they demand its benefits? That’s why we’ve begun trying to help inform our community about the no-anesthesia option that hard-tissue lasers make possible. We believe patient comfort is an important element of successful dentistry, and that’s why we chose to add it to our practice. Other dentists can continue to complete a filling with conventional means other than lasers, so they may feel they don’t have enough incentive to change the way they work. However, as the public becomes more educated about the no-anesthesia option of laser dentistry, we believe you’ll find more and more dentists offering laser services. Our practice wanted to be a leader in this area and decided to offer the benefits now, rather than wait until you demanded them.
How does the dental laser work? Hard-tissue lasers use light to scan for water in the tooth, the excess of which indicates disease in the structure. The laser works by emitting a specialized light that targets and destroys the tooth decay, leaving a healthier tooth. Lasers are truly revolutionizing the way we treat dental caries (decay).
Will my insurance cover laser fillings? Yes, laser fillings are covered by most dental insurance carriers. But if you have questions about your particular insurance carrier’s coverage you should contact your agent, or call our office. Our staff can help you determine if your carrier will do as most other insurance companies and cover the laser procedure.
How does a dental laser compare to a dental drill? Drills are very powerful, and the vibration and large hole produced can cause discomfort, making some type of anesthesia almost always necessary. With laser, the light works to destroy and remove the decay with no uncomfortable tooth vibration and resulting discomfort. Additionally, because the laser is so precise, only the decayed part of the tooth is removed leaving more of the healthy part of the tooth. And the etched surface from the laser also allows for a stronger bond.
Does the laser sound like the drill? Rather than the loud, high-pitched whine of the drill, you hear only a gentle tapping. People sometimes mistakenly think this is the sound of their tooth structure being contacted by the laser. But it is actually the sound of the laser popping tiny water droplets in the air. The laser basically vaporizes tooth decay, so there are no harsh noises from the light of the laser on the tooth itself.
What happens if the laser misses a tooth? If it points toward my cheek or gum will it burn me? There’s no need to worry. The beam of light emitted by the laser destroys only tooth decay. The laser’s wavelength is set for hard-tissue use to only affect the tooth structure, leaving other parts of the mouth unaffected. The laser cannot accidentally harm nor “burn” you as many people fear. Those are common misconceptions. In fact, the laser can even be moved back and forth across a hand at close range to demonstrate there are no adverse affects. Dental lasers are very safe.
Can the dental laser be used on children? The FDA has approved treatment of both adults and children with dental lasers. The treatment has proven to be quick and safe in over tens of thousands of applications throughout the world, especially for young children. Children are particularly receptive to the idea of replacing a shot and drill with something more pleasant. Plus, they like wearing the “cool glasses” which are used during laser treatments. We certainly enjoy seeing how adding hard-tissue lasers to our practice helps us make our younger patients happier, and how that makes their parents happier too.
Does it take longer to get a laser filling? Quite the opposite actually. With the no-anesthesia benefit of the laser no time is spent waiting for Novocain to take effect. We can perform the procedure as soon as the patient is settled into the chair. This lets us get them back to their daily schedule in much less time, and all without having to wait for Novocain to wear off. In fact, without the numb lip, our patients can chew, eat lunch, give a speech, or do other activities immediately after leaving our office.
Also in contrast to non-laser fillings, multiple teeth and parts of your mouth (quadrants) can be worked on in ONE sitting instead of having to return multiple times to have each cavity filled. With regular fillings, multiple quadrant work would be avoided to prevent having multiple parts of the patient’s mouth numbed at one time. The laser lets us work wherever necessary in the mouth in ONE visit, since there is no need for anesthesia in any area. So again it saves time by meaning fewer trips to the dental office.
Will it cost more to get a laser filling? Our office does not charge a premium for doing laser fillings vs. drill-type fillings. And remember, it’s covered by most insurance carriers too.