The word laser is an acronym for ‘Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. The theory of LASER was first proposed by Albert Einstein in the year 1917, through his thesis called, ‘Quantum Theory of Radiation’. The first scientist to use the term ‘LASER’ was Gordon Gould. It was first used in a scientific conference in the year 1959. The credit for developing the first laser emitting apparatus went to Theodore Maiman, who designed the technology in May 1960. Kumar Patel developed the first laser apparatus that could be used in medicine at the Bell Labs in 1964. It wasn’t until 1990 that lasers started being used in dental treatment. Dental treatments using lasers have been gaining recognition and acceptance, since the early 1990s. It was in the early nineties that the US, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), gave its approval to the use of the technology, for soft tissue dental treatment. The FDA approved Hard Tissue laser treatment technology in 1997.
Types of Lasers:
Lasers are primarily of four classes.
1. Solid State Lasers.
2. Gas Lasers.
3. Liquid Lasers
4. Semiconductor Lasers.
Some of the popular lasers used in dental treatment are based on Solid State, Gas and also Semiconductor based laser technology. It includes the Diode lasers, Carbon Dioxide lasers, ND: YAG, lasers, Er: YAG lasers, and Er, Cr: YAG lasers. The first three lasers mentioned above are used in the treatment of Soft Tissue, while the second, fourth and fifth lasers discussed above are used in the treatment of soft as well as hard tissue.
Soft Tissue and Hard Tissue:
In dental parlance, the teeth are the Hard Tissue, and the gums and other soft portions in the mouth are the Soft Tissue. Some of the common dental problems related to the Soft tissue include Gum Disorders (Gingivitis and Periodontitis), Oral Cancer, Mouth Sores, Tooth Sensitivity, etc. Some of the common dental problems related to the Hard Tissue include Toothache, Chipped tooth, Tooth erosion, etc. Some of the traditional methods of treatment, include, the use of teeth whiteners, drilling out the decayed portion of the tooth and replacing it with, silver particles or cement (which is of a quality, permitted by international dental associations), Tooth extraction, Root Canal Treatment (RCT), Mouthwash using certain specific compositions, etc. Some of the more specialised forms of dental treatments include Orthodontics, Periodontics, Endodontics, Prosthodontics, Paediatric dentistry, Geriatric dentistry, Oral Implantology, among others. Orthodontics involves the use of braces and similar materials to align the teeth. Periodontics involves the treatment of the gums and others parts of the mouth which support the teeth. Endodontics involves the restoration of broken tooth, Root Canal Treatment, Tooth Extraction etc. Prosthodontics involves the setting up of dentures and bridges in the mouth. Paediatric Dentistry deals with children’s dental problems. Geriatric Dentistry deals with the dental problems of the elderly. Oral Implantology deals with replacing extracted tooth with artificial implants.
The use of Lasers in Dental Treatment:
Since the early nineties, laser technology started replacing some of the traditional methods of dental treatment. Lasers are being widely used for the treatment of tooth hypersensitivity, tooth decay, gum disease, teeth whitening, cavity detection, tooth preparations and dental filings. It is also used for removing benign tumours, treating obstructive sleep apnea, TMJ, nerve regeneration, and many more problems related to the oral cavity.
Limitations of Laser Treatment:
The use of laser technology for dental treatment remains restricted because of the following reasons:
1. The high cost associated with acquisition of the machines. The cost of an average laser machine is more than ten times the cost of traditional drills used, in the process.
2. There are certain procedures which have to be addressed using traditional dental treatments.
3. The American Dental Association has not yet given it’s seal of approval, for the use of Laser Technology in the treatment of dental illnesses.
4. There is a minor risk, of damage to the gums or the tooth pulp, if the dentist has not mastered the use of the machine.
Advantages of Laser Treatment:
1. The laser treatments involving the soft tissue, eliminate the need for using stitches.
2. Since laser treatment is usually painless, it reduces the number of occasions, when anaesthesia is required.
3. Use of lasers inhibits bleeding and blood loss.
4. Lasers sterilise the area, where the treatment is applied.
5. Wounds and tissues, exposed to the laser, heal faster.