Louis Malcmacher, DDS
Laser use in the dental office has received more and more press in recent years. Indeed, there really has been a boom of lasers that have hit the market, and you would think they're already the mainstream in dentistry. I am looking at all the different lasers on the market and trying to determine whether this is something that will fit into my practice. I know many of you are doing the same thing, so I would just like to share my experiences with you so we can work through this thought process together.
There are two ways to approach looking at lasers. One is from the scientific standpoint. It takes a lot of time to understand the science behind lasers, and you could literally spend years studying this topic. The other way to approach lasers is the "Just show me how it works" system employed by most dentists when they evaluate new equipment. Most dentists want to be taught how lasers work, find out what procedures lasers are most commonly used for, understand the settings of the laser equipment, practice on some extracted teeth and pig jaws, and then just get to work.
I have found it is critical to understand at least the basic science behind lasers so you can best apply the clinical judgment needed to use lasers in patients' mouths. Learning the basic science of lasers will help you more easily and quickly integrate the laser you choose for your daily practice. It pays to spend the time to get some of this knowledge even before you purchase the laser so you can determine where it fits into your practice.
The next big question is, do you want a laser for soft-tissue applications only or a laser that does both soft- and hard-tissue applications? Soft-tissue lasers can be bought as inexpensively as $10,000. A combination soft/hard tissue laser will cost you in the realm of $35,000 to $50,000, which makes it a very significant investment. The big advantage is that you have a much wider range of applications possible with these lasers and their uses will continue to expand in your office for years to come.
The best example of a soft-tissue/hard-tissue laser is the Waterlase by the Biolase Company. Biolase has put significant effort into having its laser applications passed by the FDA, and in this regard has done dentistry a great favor by bringing high technology to the forefront for dentists and patients alike.
Let's be honest about one thing when it comes to laser technology. There is nothing more you can do with a laser that you can't do with your existing dental equipment, including a scalpel, electro-surgery unit, and high-speed handpieces. So where is the value in a laser?
Anesthesia — Lasers reduce or eliminate the need for anesthesia when doing some soft-tissue procedures and some restorative procedures. Reducing the need for anesthesia certainly helps build the practice because patients, if they would have their way, do not want to get numb for anything. This is one area of great value to every dental office.
Healing — Laser applications for soft tissue usually are bloodless and heal more rapidly than when you use cold steel. The postoperative appearance looks better to the patient, and the patient has less postoperative problems. It is just one example of how lasers can make dentistry faster, easier, and better.
Marketing — An area that has a lot of value to any dental practice is marketing. Becoming a laser dentist certainly lets patients know that you are a state-of-the-art, 21st Century dentist who has made an investment to help make treatment more comfortable.
No one can deny the value of the marketing achieveable with the purchase of a dental laser. The trick is that once you have it, you have to use it continually and let patients know how it has positively affected your practice and their dental care.
A variety of available finance plans have made lasers very affordable for most dental practices. It is a great time to take advantage of low-interest rates, which can help you finance your laser over the long term.
So, when am I going to buy a laser? I am just about finished making my decision; so probably by the time this article hits your office, I will be finding out that lasing is amazing!
Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an international lecturer and author known for hiscomprehensive 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 e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.