According to CDC, gum infections are among the biggest threats to oral health. Affecting 1 out of every 2 people above 30, gum infections can invade the supporting bones and lead to a more severe condition known as periodontitis. Studies show that age increases the risk of severe gum infections, affecting up to 70% of those aged 65 and above. Periodontitis needs professional intervention to manage.
Dental lasers can treat severe and chronic gum infections. Consulting a certified laser specialist or a periodontist is the first step you need to take when exploring dental lasers.
Dental lasers vaporize dead tissue, open up infected areas, sterilize deep pockets, and kill bacterial colonies within the gum sites. They also help to regenerate healthy gum tissue at the site.
Dental lasers are growing in popularity. They are less invasive, more precise, and provide excellent patient comfort. Postoperative complications are minimal.
Talk to your periodontist to know the pros, cons and if you are a right candidate for dental laser gum therapy.
Fortunately, your dentist can suggest laser-assisted therapies to manage the condition. Read along to learn how dental lasers work in gum infections, and how you can benefit from them.
Gum infections (gingivitis), can be reversed in the initial stages. However, with time the plaque accumulates around the teeth, hardens, and forms tartar (calculus) and can pull away the gums from your teeth. If not managed at this stage, the infection often invades the teeth-supporting bones and loosens teeth. If you reach this phase, chances are that you might lose out on otherwise healthy teeth and compromise your gum health to the extent that traditional therapies fail. That's exactly where dental lasers can help.
What are dental lasers?
Dental lasers are light-emitting devices. Laser devices release focused, narrow, and high-intensity light beams that emit energy once they strike the oral tissues. Laser beams can be transmitted, reflected, scattered, or absorbed, depending on the tissue it hits.
Most of the beneficial effects of dental lasers stem from their ability to get absorbed within the infected and inflamed oral tissues. The water content, melanin pigments, and hemoglobin (called chromophores) in the gums dictate the effects of the laser. Let's look into the different ways a dental laser works on oral tissues.
How do dental lasers work?
Laser-assisted therapies for managing gum infections are gaining traction among dentists and patients alike. And for all the good reasons! Here’s how dental lasers work in severe gum infections:
- Cut off dead gum tissues. The active bacterial zone is often covered by dead gum tissues and calculus deposits. Removing them is the only way to open up the infection. By a process known as cauterization, lasers help to vaporize damaged gum tissues around the teeth precisely and selectively. The heat from the dental laser burns out the tissues and exposes the infected pockets around the teeth.
- Break down tartar and hard deposits. Dentists use specific lasers that target the tartar, are absorbed, and break tartar down into tiny bits. Once the tartar breaks down, your dentist can use curettes or scaling instruments to remove them from the tooth surface.
- Disinfect the infected pockets. If you have severe gum infections, the pockets around your teeth get deeper and lodge harmful bacteria — the ones that can't be removed with conventional gum treatments like scaling and root planing. Dental lasers can target and kill bacteria from deep periodontal pockets, including the ones that cling tight to the teeth' surfaces.
- Regenerate healthy gum collar. Healthy teeth thrive on healthy gums. Once the whole area is laser-sterilized, it's time to heal and grow the lost tissues around your teeth. Dental lasers are designed to stimulate the remaining healthy gum cells to regenerate new gum cells, complete with nerves and blood vessels.
Each laser is unique with specific light wavelengths, power levels, and emitting frequencies. This means a specific gum problem needs a specific type of dental laser.
A periodontist, specially trained in laser therapies, is your go-to person if you want to explore laser therapy for your infected gums.
Gum infections: Benefits of laser-assisted therapy
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) has highlighted that dental lasers when used with traditional therapies, show better outcomes in patients with severe and long-standing gum infections. Whether they provide similar results as stand-alone therapies is still a matter of debate. Here are the benefits of laser gum therapy:
- Precision. Lasers cut off dead tissues and leave out healthy tissues. You need not worry about losing your healthy gum areas.
- Less invasive. Dentists don't need to cut into the gums with a scalpel. A laser can remove infected parts and open up deep pockets, all with a beam.
- Less bleeding. Lasers coagulate the blood vessels along the area of action and reduce complications. People on blood thinners can opt for laser therapies, to minimize bleeding complications after the procedure.
- Patient-friendly. If you fear blades, stitches, and blood, lasers might be a viable alternative. As a bonus, postoperative pain and swelling are reduced with lasers.
- Good for most patients. Lasers are suited for older people and those with health conditions that deter them from surgical therapy.
- Regenerate gum tissue. Lasers help in healthy gum tissue regeneration. It heals faster and eliminates the need for another regenerative surgery.
- Aesthetic. You might not like the stitches and cut lines showing up every time you smile. With lasers, you can steer clear of these woes.
Choosing the right laser for gum infections
There is no “one type fits all” when it comes to choosing the right laser. Your dentist will select a dental laser according to your needs and guiding protocols. Your dentist can select among diode lasers, CO2 lasers, Nd: YAG lasers, Er: YAG and Er, Cr: YSGG lasers. It all depends on the condition of your gums and adjacent bone.
While diode and CO2 lasers help to cauterize the soft tissues, Nd: YAG lasers and Er: YAG lasers are more effective in tartar removal. The best part of laser therapy is that your dentist gets to tailor the power and wavelengths according to your needs.
Can insurance pay for this procedure?
Some dental insurance plans may cover certain types of laser therapies for periodontal treatment, while others may not.
If you have dental insurance, check if it covers your gum treatment. Make sure it covers laser-assisted dental therapies. It's best to check with your insurance company before you start therapy. Some dental insurance plans require certain conditions to be met before covering laser therapy, like how bad the gum disease is or how many teeth need treatment.
By the nature of it, dental lasers provide an experience you will love. Lasers are unique in the way they help manage severe gum infections, healing, and tissue regeneration at the site. If you are suffering from periodontitis, make sure to have a talk with your dentist about the pros and cons of dental lasers and if laser gum therapy will suit you.
Are dental lasers safe and FDA-approved?
Yes, dental lasers are approved by the FDA and dentists recommend lasers as a safe alternative to surgical gum therapies. However, you need to protect your eyes from lasers. Your dentist will cover up your eyes before the procedure begins. Also, a wrong choice of lasers can ruin the procedure. Make sure you are in experienced hands.
What is the cost of dental laser gum therapy?
The cost of laser gum treatment depends on how bad your gum infection is. The cost may also vary depending on the region you live in, the experience and expertise of the dental professional providing the treatment, and the type of laser used. Talk to your dentist to know the estimate. Laser therapies can be on the expensive side, and it's best to have an idea before deciding to go through with the treatment.
Is post-laser recovery time long?
No, recovery is fast after laser gum therapy. Some pain, swelling, and discomfort in the area are common, but they are usually mild and resolve within a week, with good oral care and medicines. Follow your dentist's instructions to heal better. Visit your dentist if the pain becomes intense, the area remains numb, or the swelling increases.
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Preventing Gum Disease.
- Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery. Overview of lasers.
- Journal of Periodontology. American Academy of Periodontology best evidence consensus statement on the efficacy of laser therapy used alone or as an adjunct to non-surgical and surgical treatment of periodontitis and peri-implant diseases.
- Brazilian Oral Research. LASER in periodontal treatment: is it an effective treatment or science fiction?