A new era in dentistry

Dec. 1, 2004
A few months ago, I wrote a column about lasers. I talked about the effect they have on your practice, and whether or not it was a good idea to buy a laser at this time.

A few months ago, I wrote a column about lasers. I talked about the effect they have on your practice, and whether or not it was a good idea to buy a laser at this time. I was wrestling with my own decision about whether it was time to go into laser dentistry for my office. At the time I wrote the column, I had not made my final decision, but I was seriously considering it.

The decision to purchase lasers for our office was made after a careful and detailed analysis. We struggled with how it would affect our overhead and whether or not it would fit into our style of practice. We did decide to purchase the Waterlase(r) all-tissue laser, which then gave us the capability to treat hard and soft tissues. Let me just share with you some of our experiences now that we have had it for six months.

Adding a new technique, materials, or technology to the dental office requires some planning. We made sure the dentists received the proper training and the staff was fully conversant with the dental laser, its indications and contraindications, maintenance use, and how we, as a team, were going to approach our patients with this exciting new addition to our office. Anyone in our office can answer just about any questions regarding the laser that interested patients might have. By making the entire team knowledgeable about the laser, that knowledge built its own passion throughout the entire office. This intensive preparation directly translated into the excitement our patients have about dental lasers.

With six months of experience under my belt, I can say one thing that I have rarely said in the last 25 years of practicing dentistry, consulting, and evaluating products. Now that I have a dental laser, I can't live without it!

After the right educating and training, the only way to learn how to use anything new is to get in there and just do it! During the first four to six weeks, I used the laser on just about every, single patient, whether it was for hard-tissue removal, laser-operative preps, laser endo, or for soft-tissue uses, including frenectomies, gingivectomies, gingival recontouring, crown-lengthening procedures, and biopsy removal. I forced myself to use it any chance that I could in order to train myself to think of how far the applications could go with dental lasers. Now, I frequently will reach for the laser first before I even consider picking up a handpiece or a scalpel.

I also learned something new about my patients. Did you know that your patients, like mine, prefer not to have anesthesia if at all possible? Using the laser, I have probably dropped my use of anesthesia by 40 to 50 percent. I rarely use anesthesia for operative dentistry, and there are many soft-tissue procedures I can also do without the need for anesthesia. The response from patients to this one aspect alone has been nothing less than phenomenal! I, as with most of the readers of this column, have always thought, "What's the big deal? I'll just get the patient numb." This is a primary reason to get into laser dentistry.

Then there is the general excitement of patients coming in and finding out we have come into the 21st century and use dental lasers. A number of patients have told me they are surprised most dentists don't have a laser. Their dermatologist, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, obstetricians/gynecologists, internists, oncologists, gastroenterologists, podiatrists, and just about every other medical professional have lasers. Patients expect dentists to use this new technology, and the response has really been terrific!

Looking back, I wish I would have bought a laser a few years ago. I could never have predicted how much it would change our practice and how much it would heighten the dental experience for us and our patients. It's hard to describe, but there is that factor you can't understand until you have actually used the laser successfully in your practice. This indescribable factor is worth much more than the price of the laser alone.

So, six months later, what is my recommendation to you about purchasing a dental laser for your practice? The real question now is, "How do you practice without a laser?" It is time to become a part of this new era in dentistry. Go for it!

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an international lecturer and author known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. For close to two decades, Dr. Malcmacher has inspired his audiences to truly enjoy practicing dentistry by providing the knowledge necessary for excellent clinical and practice-management skills. His group dental practice has maintained a 45 percent overhead since 1988. For details about his speaking schedule, Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or via email at [email protected].

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