July 2013 articles

Beam Me Up

Once considered a fantasy technology seen only on television shows like Star Trek, lasers are now being used in ways even science fiction writers couldnt have imagined, including a wide variety of dental applications. Here are just a few of the ways lasers are changing how dentists work. Decay Detection Tooth decay in the very early stages when it hasnt destroyed much of the tooth structure or reached the outer layer of the tooth can be difficult for a dentist to detect, unless he or she is working with a device that uses a red laser to find decay. By measuring the way the laser light reflects back, dentists have a better idea of whats going on within the tooth. This enables dentists to catch decay early and try to reverse it with fluoride or cover it with a sealant before there is serious damage. Experts caution that there are limitations: It doesnt work on teeth that already have fillings, and there can be false positives where the laser says there is decay but there really isnt. Decay Removal Certain lasers can be used to get rid of decay within a tooth and help prepare the tooth for the filling. Plus, if you are getting a tooth-colored (composite) filling, once the filling material is in place, lasers help some composite fillings cure or harden.1 Whitening (sort of) People often refer to light-accelerated tooth whitening as laser whitening. Thats a misnomer, however, since no lasers are actually involved.2 What really happens is that a dentist applies a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide solution to the teeth, and then points a whitening accelerator light at the gel-covered teeth. Several applications can brighten teeth by up to 12 shades in under an hour.2

1 http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/dental_care/hic_laser_use_in_dentistry.aspx 2 http://thesmileclinic.com/teeth-whitening-treatments.php


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