Beginning the journey into laser-assisted dentistry

Oct. 1, 2006
I was visiting with a colleague the other day and he shared a timely story with me on the topic of technology-driven dentistry and, more specifically, laser-assisted dentistry.

I was visiting with a colleague the other day and he shared a timely story with me on the topic of technology-driven dentistry and, more specifically, laser-assisted dentistry. It seems that there were two dentists who had recently graduated from dental school, successfully passed their boards, and were in the process of interviewing for an associate position in the same dental office. They had many things in common - they were both women, had graduated in the top 10 percent of their class, were very articulate, etc. The dentist seeking an associate was perplexed about how to choose one over the other and wished he had the patient volume to hire both. Needing to make a decision, he reviewed their resumes one last time and discovered that one of the applicants had received training in laser-assisted dentistry as part of her undergraduate dental education. Having recently purchased a dental laser for his practice, it is easy to see how he made this difficult decision! I can imagine the ad now:

Seeking energetic, articulate dental graduate for associate position in busy practice. Dental laser experience preferred...

It was recently reported in an industry survey that 18.9 percent of North American dentists intend to purchase a dental laser in the next 12 months.

For someone who graduated from dental school with Paste A and Paste B, rubber-base impression material, waxing and casting custom blade implants, and an Electrosurge, statistics like these truly validate that technology-driven dentistry is no longer a dream; it is very much a reality.

We are all aware of the cosmetic revolution that continues to sweep dentistry; we can now record optical impressions and create same-appointment crowns utilizing CAD/CAM technology. It has been 25 years since the introduction of root form dental implants in North America with the Branemark System. With this issue of Dental Economics, we are launching a column on laser-assisted dentistry.

I am reminded of an article written many years ago with a quote from Dr. Dick Barnes where he stated, and I am paraphrasing, that “95 percent of the materials we use in dentistry today were not around 15 years ago.” He went on to say that as dentists we have a choice - we can be reactive, i.e., wait until prevailing wisdom forces us to change, or we can be proactive, i.e., adopt the changes for the betterment of patient care.

It is the goal of this column to give you the information required to be a proactive laser-assisted dentist. In the months ahead, there will be four areas of concentration:

Equipment: What differentiates various laser wavelengths, and which wavelength is right for your practice - Diode, Er:YAG, Nd:YAG, Er,Cr:YSGG or CO2? What new laser technology is coming down the pike?

Current clinical challenges for which laser-assisted dentistry provides solutions: These challenges include but are not limited to subgingival Class V caries and abfractions, closed-flap osseous crown lengthening, and site-specific periodontal treatment.

Conversations with Key Opinion Leaders: It is our goal to bring you the clinical perspectives of KOLs, both in private practice and in academics. We also hope to provide you with timely references to recently published abstracts that will further enhance your involvement with laser-assisted dentistry and provide clarity during your decision-making process.

Laser organizations: There are several laser organizations around the world - ALD, ESOLA, and WCLI to name a few. It is our goal to connect you with the leaders of these organizations so you can better understand the learning opportunities available to you on your laser-assisted dentistry journey.

While I will be responsible for the ongoing monthly content, it is our goal to have a small board of recognized industry leaders in laser-assisted dentistry provide additional guidance.

I was privileged to have grown up reading many talented columnists over the years - Jim Murray, the long-time Los Angeles Times sports columnist, Herb Caen, the long-time San Francisco Chronicle columnist, and, of course, Dr. Gordon Christensen, the dean of dental columnists. I can only hope that over the next several months this opportunity, entrusted to me by Dental Economics, will provide you with excellent clinical insights into laser-assisted dentistry.

Dr. Wayne R. Harrison is currently the Director of Professional Relations at BIOLASE Technology, Inc. in Irvine, Calif. Prior to this position, he completed a master’s degree in education and taught school for 10 years. He is a 1983 graduate, with honors, from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry and maintained a private practice focused on cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry. He has lectured nationally and internationally on a variety of dental-related topics. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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