Many patients regard the dental office as a house of pain – a place to be endured, with literally a stiff upper lip, when they can’t avoid it. But a few dentists have started to soften that image by using a laser rather than the fearsome drill for such procedures as removing tooth decay and filling cavities.
Cleared for dentistry use last year by the Food and Drug Administration and reaching the market in December, the carbon dioxide laser produces rapid pulses of infrared light at a wavelength that the teeth absorb particularly well.
Early adopters have applauded it. “It’s quite remarkable,” said Boston-based dentist Mark Mizner, who has used it to treat 100 to 150 patients by his estimate. “It cuts cleanly, and it cuts decay as easily as it cuts through the healthy tooth. It also cuts soft tissue like nothing I’ve ever used before.”
Added University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry dean John Featherstone, whose research laid the foundations of the laser’s dental capabilities: “It’s a quantum leap forward in terms of dentistry.”