"We’re seeing tremendous results," said Dr. Chuck Laun, a senior doctor with Coast Dental. The South Lakeland dentist uses the laser therapy in five ways:
Periodontal disease treatment. The laser is used to remove bacteria in patients with periodontal (gum) disease. "We use a diode laser that looks like a pen. It targets just the diseased tissue around the teeth and vaporizes it. It leaves the healthy tissue alone. You can use it with little-to-no pain, and it heals within four to seven days," Dr. Laun said.
Periodontal disease is very common. The American Academy of Periodontology estimates 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease. If left untreated, the bacteria causes the bone supporting the teeth to recede and the teeth become loose and can fall out or need to be extracted. That leads to costly procedures like implants, bridges or dentures.
"If we do just a deep cleaning, we're going to get a 60% reduction of bacteria around the periodontal pockets. If we add the laser, that percentage goes to about 90%," Dr. Laun explained.
Before the introduction of laser therapy, dentists often would treat periodontal disease with antibiotics, and the cost of the drugs could quickly add up.
"Patients want to know three things: Is it effective? Will it hurt? And how much will it cost?" said Dr. Laun. "I tell them it's more effective than the antibiotics, there's little-to-no pain and ultimately, it's less expensive because the effects are immediate."
Here are some other ways laser therapy helps patients:
Biopsy sampling. Dentists are also using the diode laser to remove a small piece of tissue so it can be examined for cancer. "I've been working in dentistry for about 30 years and we used to use a scalpel to remove an area we wanted to biopsy," Dr. Laun said. "Just the other day, I took a fibroma off a gentleman. He didn't need any anesthetic and he came back 10 days later and you couldn't even see where I had removed the tissue. It heals that quickly."
Lesion treatment. Dentists also use lasers to treat lesions in the mouth, such as canker sores, cold sores or ulcers. Left alone, mouth sores usually go away in 10 to 14 days. Applying a laser will eliminate the pain from the mouth sore and ultimately help it heal faster, Dr. Laun said. The treatment typically takes only about four minutes.
Accurate margins for mold impressions. It's very important dentists make an accurate mold of the area that needs a crown, bridge or denture. Dentists can perform troughing with a laser instead of packing cord to expose the subgingival margins and control bleeding. That helps them get a more accurate impression to send to the lab to make the replacement tooth or teeth.
Cosmetic procedures. "Let’s say you have a gummy smile," Dr. Laun explained. "You can zap a little bit of the tissue to make the teeth look the same size. You can really improve people's smiles."
There are other benefits, too. "You can use it around metal, so you can use it on patients with implants or braces, which you couldn't do with electrosurge technology because it would spark," Dr. Laun explained. Also, since a laser is just amplified light, laser therapy is safe for pregnant women.
"What I really like is that it’s so much more predictable," Dr. Laun said. "There's less bleeding and much better healing."
The advances in laser technology in dentistry are being welcomed by patients, too. "I had the laser treatment done on my crowns and also for my gums," said Milton De La Cruz, one of Dr. Laun's patients. "The procedure was easy and painless."
"After a laser treatment, most patients ask, 'Is that it?' I think they're apprehensive in the beginning just because they think of the lasers in Star Wars. But in reality, it's just a great tool that can get great results in a shorter amount of time and with little-to-no pain. That's what everyone wants when they go to the dentist," said Dr. Laun.
Chuck Laun, DDS, has been a practicing dentist since 1983. The South Lakeland dentist provides general dentistry services to patients age 8 and older. His services include bone grafting, crown lengthening, dental implant restorations, extractions, gummy smile, periodontal disease management, ridge augmentation, root canal therapy and retreatment, TMJ disorders, veneers, Lumineers and cosmetic, restorative dentistry and Clear Correct invisible braces. He owned his own practice for more than 24 years in California before relocating to Florida in 2007. He currently practices at Coast Dental South Lakeland, 4744 South Florida Avenue, Lakeland, Florida 33813. The phone number is (863) 644-1226.
Written By: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed By: Chuck Laun, DDS
Reviewed By: Cindy Roark, DMD