Dr. Joe Blaes talks with Dr. Jeff Dalin about diode lasers

July 1, 2010
My goal this month was to discuss diode lasers. My office already owned a regular-sized diode laser so I am familiar with these lasers.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Dr. Joe Blaes, diode lasers, soft tissue, return on investment, gingiva, Dr. Jeff Dalin.

My goal this month was to discuss diode lasers. My office already owned a regular-sized diode laser so I am familiar with these lasers. But recently we obtained an NV MicroLaser. Once I noticed a change in the office, I thought I would have DE Editor Dr. Joe Blaes interview me on this topic for this month’s installment.

In doing this, Dr. Blaes and I thought it would help readers understand our thought processes regarding diode lasers — in general — and illustrate how my office has become re-energized with the introduction of a new diode laser.

Dr. Blaes: A laser is an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Lasers can be made in varying wavelengths and power outputs. Diode lasers generally work at around 810 to 980 nm, which is highly absorbed by melanin and hemoglobin. This allows them to cut or coagulate soft tissue. Jeff, how are you using a diode laser in your office?

Dr. Dalin: We have now had a diode laser in our office for a number of years. Once you have one, you discover many uses for this piece of equipment. Some of these include 1) gingival troughing during crown and bridge and restorative work, 2) gingivoplasty, 3) gingivectomy, 4) aphthous ulcer treatment, 5) sulcular debridement during root planing, 6) biopsies and excisions of soft tissue, 7) hemostasis, 8) frenectomies, 9) uncovering implants, 10) tooth desensitization, 11) sterilization of canals during endodontic treatment, and 12) tooth whitening.

Dr. Blaes: How has this technology been accepted by your office and your patients?

Dr. Dalin: Everyone in our office, especially the patients, likes diode lasers because of the reduced pain and bleeding that accompanies using them. We know that limited cell damage occurs, so this reduction in trauma means less postop pain and faster healing.

Dr. Blaes: We know this is Dental Economics® magazine. With this in mind, how have you viewed diode lasers, in general, and the NV MicroLaser specifically in economic terms?

Dr. Dalin: With the amount of versatility for this piece of equipment, one can easily tell the return on investment that can be calculated. Early units were fairly large and bulky. We were not early adopters, so we did not have to deal with these types of units.

We bought our first diode laser about eight years ago. At the time, it was the first of the smaller-sized units. Even though it was a huge improvement, it was still something that could not be transported around the office easily. We placed our unit on a rolling cabinet to make it mobile. We thought this would be a simple way to move the laser around the office to allow multiple dentists and hygienists to use it.

Unfortunately, even with that set-up, the diode laser remained in one operatory. It took too much effort and time to move it around and set it up. People hesitated to go and get it, and just stopped trying to perform procedures with it. Over time, diode lasers have become much more compact. But even as they became smaller with successive generations of improvements, it was still a chore to move the lasers from room to room.

But then came the NV (formerly Styla) MicroLaser from Discus Dental. This 6.9-inch, 1.9-ounce diode laser has been a game-changer because it is easy to move around the office. Its lasing function is controlled with a cordless foot pedal and two rechargeable lithium ion batteries.

To top things off, it has prethreaded disposable tips (no more stripping and cleaving and messing with rolls of glass fiber), an intelligent gravity sensor, preset procedures (makes it simple to set the laser to match the procedure for which it is being used), and a compact charger/storage unit (easy to locate the laser anywhere in the office).

Suddenly, everyone in our office wants to use the diode laser. The laser is simple to grab, place a tip and battery on, and take with the wireless foot pedal into any of our eight operatories. You don’t need to wait for a multiple-quadrant periodontal patient to use it.

You can use it for one or two localized areas during a routine checkup appointment. You can help alleviate the pain of a large aphthous ulcer on an emergency patient visit. You can trim and trough the gingiva in some of your crown and bridge patients or trim off the enlarged distal wedge of tissue that won’t shrink down on the distal of the lower second molar. This is what I call return on investment! We now use our diode laser to its fullest potential.

I recommend readers take a look at the many choices in the marketplace. AMD has its Picasso and Picasso Lite units. I think the price point on these units is amazing.

Other companies have great units to consider, too. Biolase has EZLase and iLase units, Ivoclar has Odyssey and Navigator units, Sirona has SiroLaser, and KaVo has the GentleRay. It is always good to investigate your options and choose what fits your budget and has the features you want.

Dr. Blaes: How easy is it to get everyone in your office to use the NV MicroLaser?

Dr. Dalin: Training is quick and easy and is an interesting day of continuing education. All dentists and hygienists should be certified to use a laser. Good, solid training is essential. Once things are up and running, remember to follow the safety rules associated with the laser’s use.

There are a lot of great choices. I always recommend looking at many different models and brands. I have mentioned a few of the more popular models. Most work in similar ways. All of them can be used when you need to work with oral soft tissues.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He is a cofounder of the Give Kids A Smile program. Contact Dr. Dalin at [email protected].

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