Laser FAQ

Laser Frequently Asked Questions

What is Laser Periodontal Therapy™?

Laser Periodontal Therapy™ is a laser based technique for the treatment of periodontal disease using the Millennium Dental Technologies, Inc., PerioLase® Laser. Fear of periodontal treatment vanishes when patients find out no scalpel or sutures will be used. Patient friendly laser treatment gets patients to agree to the treatment they need and continue with the follow-up care that is prescribed.

Our office is one of the first in the area to offer Laser Periodontal Therapy™ for the treatment of gingivitis and/or periodontitis. Following are commonly asked questions about this technology.

How does it work?

Tartar, associated with inflamed and bleeding gums, is removed from the root surface of the tooth using an ultrasonic scaler and small instruments. Then, a small amount of light energy from a laser is directed through a tiny fiber, which is gently placed between the gum and tooth. This light energy removes a tiny amount of diseased tissue and aids in reducing the bacteria associated with the disease. After the area is thoroughly cleaned, the body can heal the area naturally.

Are all lasers the same?

There are a lot of laser companies out there. Not all laser therapy is the same. This laser was specifically designed for treating periodontal disease. This addition makes it possible for us to effectively treat gum disease problems and establish ideal conditions for healing the gums around teeth that have periodontal pockets right in our office.

My dentist says they can offer laser periodontal therapy

A number of dental offices offer “laser treatment.” It is very important to realize that not all lasers are the same! Laser periodontal therapy is much more than just shining the magic flashlight down the pocket and curing periodontal disease.

What a laser does is dependent upon the laser wavelength. For example, the Periodontal Laser we use in our office (Periolase) is very effective for treating periodontal disease, but would be a poor tool for cutting teeth for fillings or crowns. A dental laser, such as Waterlase or a Diode laser, are poor at treating periodontal disease, but they are great for cutting hard tissues.

A laser is a tool, and should be used for what it was designed for. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to pound in nails. Ours is the first and only laser that is FDA cleared to generate new periodontal attachment and bone formation.

Our office is one of only three in the city to offer the Periolase MVP-7 system. The Periolase is specifically designed for periodontal treatment. No other laser can make that claim.

What is the difference between the Periolase and other lasers?

Most of the lasers that are out in the dental world are Diode lasers. Diodes are relatively cheap (~$2,000), and are good at burning soft tissues away. It is analogous to shoving a hot knife into the periodontal pocket and killing everything (good and bad) it is in direct contact with.

Our Periolase system represents a $100,000 investment in state of the art technology for periodontally specific treatment. Periolase selectively kills the diseased tissue and the black, pigmented bacteria which cause periodontal disease, without damaging the underlying, healthy connective tissue. There is little to no collateral damage, which is why it is so effective in treating periodontal disease.

When it comes to treating periodontal disease, comparing the Diode or Waterlase to the Periolase is like trying to compare a bicycle to a Ferrari.

Does it hurt?

Although the procedure itself can be virtually painless, we will anesthetize the area for the patient’s comfort. In this way we can precisely direct the laser for treatment. Post-procedure discomfort is typically minimal and of short duration.

How long does it take?

Initial treatment is focused on scaling and the use of small instruments to remove the tartar. Then, the laser portion of the treatment is performed and normally only takes a few minutes. Depending on the severity of the patient’s periodontal disease, treatment may be accomplished in one office visit or in multiple visits. The estimated treatment time is reviewed with patients when we discuss their treatment plan.

My doctor said he’d have to pull my teeth because they are so loose and I don’t want to do that.

We have been able to save a lot of teeth that other dentists wanted to extract. We have had great success in saving teeth that were to be extracted. There is nothing better than your own natural teeth.

How does laser treatment differ from traditional treatment?

Traditional treatment usually starts with scaling and root planning (deep cleaning), and is followed up by surgery where excess tissue is cut away, and the bone is reduced to eliminate pockets. This is a subtractive procedure.

With laser, the diseased tissue and black pigmented bacteria are selectively removed without damaging the healthy underlying connective tissue. Instead of a subtractive procedure, the goal is regeneration of the gums and the bone. Even though it may sound counter-intuitive, laser is best performed in hot (infected) sites as opposed to sites which have already had a deep cleaning.

I had x-rays a while ago. I don’t want to take them again. Can’t you look at those?

We can use them if they are not copies and they are less than 6 months old. The conditions of your mouth change rapidly, and in order to accurately diagnose you, we may need current x-rays.

How will I feel after the laser surgery?

You may experience some ache, throbbing or soreness. The doctor will prescribe some antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory to take care of any discomfort you may experience.

How many appointments will I need?

Usually two treatment visits and a couple of post-operative visits. The doctor will then prescribe visits with a hygienist every three months to keep up what he has started.

How do I know this will work? I had surgery 4 years ago, and I now need it again.

Dr. Engen can answer all of your questions regarding treatment.

Does this treatment cost more than traditional gum surgery?

The laser is comparable to the fee for conventional periodontal surgery. It is not more because it is new technology. There are a lot of front loaded expenses so it may seem more expensive initially, but long term it is more cost effective. There are other factors which may affect the cost, such as the severity of the periodontal disease, and how many teeth are involved. Some insurance plans pay only for a portion of this treatment. For others, laser is not a covered benefit.

Can I spread treatment out to maximize my insurance?

Laser treatment is either a whole-quadrant, or whole-mouth procedure. Even if the problem is focused on 2-3 teeth in one quadrant, we will treat the whole quadrant. That is because 74% of “healthy” sites actually still harbor the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Spreading out treatment risks re-infection of previously treated sites, more treatment and more expense. We do not charge more to treat the quadrant as we do to treat just the sites.

My insurance doesn’t cover laser treatment

Dental insurance by its very nature is limiting. In some cases, laser is not a covered benefit. It is up to the patient, then, to decide if they want the laser treatment or just what their insurance company is willing to cover. Laser therapy may not be for everybody.

Do you offer financing?

Yes. Pending a credit check, we will work with you to make appropriate financial arrangements. Our goal is to get you the treatment you need.

Is there any radiation with laser?

Laser by its very definition is a form of radiation. However, the laser we use in our office is a non-ionizing laser, which is completely safe, and will not cause dysplasia or DNA damage to your cells. You are more at risk from a few hours in the garden or at the beach than from the Periolase.

Next: What Can the Laser Do?

PATIENT REVIEWS

Eric T.
Jun 29, 2014

 

What isn’t to like? Everything was good at Dr. Engen’s office.

Lyle B. (Periodontal patient)
Jun 29, 2014

 

State of the art care! I like the “get it right” attitude. After eight years I have not had one negative experience.