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A Reason To Smile

Lasers are creating a whole new experience for patients in dentist offices across the country. Dentists say lasers are putting more smiles on their patients' faces.//

Laser procedures in dentistry are minimally invasive, result in less tissue removal, less bleeding and less discomfort for patients. There are a variety of dental uses for lasers. Some diagnose cavities, while others remove gum and tooth structure to treat disease. Some are even used to whiten teeth.

Dentists also use lasers to help detect dental disease in its early stages. Another use is for the treatment of gum disease to remove diseased tissue. With lasers, there is no need for anesthesia or a drill and that eliminates the "harrowing" noise that comes with other dental equipment.

The disadvantages to lasers are they take longer than traditional methods; they can't be used on teeth that have existing fillings; certain types of fillings could damage the laser tip; and the cost of laser equipment is high compared to traditional tools.

Although lasers are approved for use in dentistry (recently approved for use in children) a 2000 survey showed, less than 10 percent of dentists said they use lasers. However, a more recent survey shows 14 percent of dentists plan to buy a laser for hard tissue and 10 percent plan to buy one for soft tissue uses.

The continued development of dental lasers helps dentistry provide the best care for patients. The science surrounding dental lasers continues to support their current use and shows promise for future applications of lasers in dentistry.

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