Lasers in hygiene

Dec. 1, 2009
The year was 2000. Angie Mott, RDH, MALD (Mastership in the Academy of Laser Dentistry), attended an introductory course on soft tissue lasers at the Las Vegas Institute.

by Ann–Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MeD, FAADH
[email protected]

The year was 2000. Angie Mott, RDH, MALD (Mastership in the Academy of Laser Dentistry), attended an introductory course on soft tissue lasers at the Las Vegas Institute.

From that moment on, she was hooked. She learned that lasers and dental hygiene are a perfect combination. Lasers, if allowed by state dental practice acts, are a great addition to the tools that hygienists can use to treat periodontal disease.

From her introduction in 2000, Angie has taken the lead in educating hygienists about the benefits of lasers. Her program, "Soft Tissue Lasers for the Dental Hygienist," helps dental professionals understand lasers in dental hygiene.

Lasers can be effective in removing diseased tissue from periodontal pockets and aid in the healing of herpetic lesions and aphthous ulcers.

The goals of Angie's program include:

  • Understanding the nature of laser physics and safety
  • Discussing the uses for lasers in dentistry and dental hygiene
  • Discussing case studies demonstrating the uses of lasers
  • Recognizing laser care, delivery, and set–up
  • Discussing a typical laser appointment and fee scheduling
  • Recognizing key words and phrases to use with patients and other stakeholders involved in laser dentistry
  • Participating in a mock exam to prepare participants for the online Standard Proficiency Exam of the Academy of Laser Dentistry

Angie strives to provide participants with the highest quality patient care by using new technology they may not have considered. Although the program is geared toward hygienists, other members of the team would also benefit from an understanding of laser science and the appropriate insurance codes used for services.

Angie has seen the drastic changes that lasers provide for her patients and their periodontal health. This encouraged her to develop the program so she could share her excitement with other dental professionals.

‘I'd quit if they take my laser ...'

Many participants express similar excitement. One hygienist said after a program, "I'd quit practicing as a clinical hygienist if my laser was taken away." Angie also offers an in–office program for the entire staff, which hopefully builds the excitement that lasers can bring to patients and professionals.

Angie's program is in PowerPoint and supplemented by a guide that participants can use to study for the standard proficiency exam. The exam is both an online 75 multiple–choice exam and a simulated clinical exam.

Individual state practice acts constantly change in regard to hygienists and laser use. Currently only three states mandate training in laser therapy — California, Nevada, and Arizona. In many states, laser use by hygienists is a gray area, while specific regulations are pending for others. If hygienists are interested in laser therapy, they should contact their individual state regulatory board.

After her initial interest in lasers, Angie completed the Advanced Proficiency exam, achieved educator status in the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD), became registered as a recognized laser course provider, and recently achieved Mastership status. In addition to her passion for lasers, she is passionate about her family — husband, Dan, and sons, Brandon and Trevor. She is also enthusiastic about educating others about oral cancer and the use of the VELScope.

She believes that all states should allow hygienists the opportunity to use lasers as part of their treatment protocols. She includes a lot of humor in her programs since she believes humor and dentistry should go hand–in–hand.

Lasers are becoming an increasingly important part of total patient care. As hygienists, we need to educate ourselves about the benefits that they can provide for both patients and dental practices.

For further information on Angie's courses, contact [email protected] or call 918–231–0491.

About the Author

Ann–Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and a member of ADHA and other professional associations. Ann–Marie presents continuing–education programs for hygienists and dental team members and has written numerous articles on a variety of topics. She can be reached at [email protected].