As a dental hygienist, the safety and health of my patients are my top priorities. A key part in maintaining a safe office environment while cultivating healthier smiles is infection control. In my office, we are always searching for the latest and greatest tools that can reduce bacteria and viruses and help us comply with stringent infection control protocols—now more than ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We also look for tools that will lead to shorter procedures and less chair time for patients, quicker healing times, and less stress on the job. For me, there is only one tool that accomplishes all these goals: a dental laser.
Using a laser to prevent infection and reduce bacteria in the mouth
A tremendous benefit of using a laser is the ability to accomplish laser bacterial reduction, commonly known as LBR. The process of LBR helps remove bacteria in the mouth that causes inflammation, thus preventing pain and infection. Failure to address bacteria can lead to more serious oral health issues, such as periodontal disease. I regularly see patients with irritated areas in their mouths, or who have long-lasting issues and concerns when it comes to inflammation or infection. These patients typically feel hopeless when nothing is working for them. However, as soon as we do LBR, their mouth heals much faster because of the reduction of bacteria, and they do not experience as much irritation and discomfort. LBR is also minimally invasive, making it a more comfortable experience for patients because we don’t have to poke and prod to get the best results.
When using a laser for LBR, Biolase’s Epic Hygiene laser is one of my top choices. This laser received regulatory clearance for LBR therapy indication from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year.1 When my patients know that the tool I am using has been cleared by the FDA, it increases their comfort level, which is sometimes rare when it comes to patients at the dental office. Every time I put a laser into my patients’ mouths, I know they are going to see great benefits simply by making the decision to move forward with LBR.
Infection control protocols amid the pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, dental lasers have helped my practice keep up with infection control protocols, which are constantly changing based on new research. As safety protocols continue to shift amid the pandemic, dental lasers continue to be an increasingly helpful tool for hygienists to regularly utilize during treatments.
In light of the pandemic, the American Dental Association released guidance to reduce aerosol production as much as possible, to minimize the spread of COVID-19 between patients and dental staff.2 As hygienists, we want to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect patients, ourselves, and our loved ones at home. Although dental lasers provide many benefits, the most notable advantage during COVID-19 has been peace of mind in knowing that we don’t need to rely as much on aerosol devices such as ultrasonics for biofilm control.
Adopting the dental laser into your practice for infection control and more
Before beginning a discussion about adopting dental lasers into your practice, it is important to research the benefits they will bring for dentists, hygienists, and patients. Lasers have become a routine part of my job, and they are also what keeps my patients coming back. For infection control, dental lasers produce unmatched results that I have yet to see from any other tool.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the July 2021 print edition of RDH.
- Biolase announces regulatory clearance of laser bacterial reduction therapy indication for Epic Hygiene Laser. News release. Biolase. March 24, 2020. https://www.biolase.com/blog/biolase-announces-regulatory-clearance-of-laser-bacterial-reduction-therapy-indication-for-epic-hygiene-laser/
- Summary of ADA guidance during the COVID-19 crisis. American Dental Association. October 30, 2020. https://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/COVID/COVID-19_Int_Guidance_Summary.pdf
Angie Wallace, RDH, has been a clinical hygienist for more than 30 years and has used lasers for more than 20. She obtained her advanced level proficiency, educator and recognized course provider status, and mastership from the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD). She currently serves as chair for the ALD Education Committee, cochair for Regulatory Affairs, and on other committees for the ALD Board of Directors. Wallace is an international speaker who teaches laser courses and webinars, and she consults with several laser manufacturers. She is also an in-office laser consultant, providing laser certification and training courses. Wallace has coauthored a book about laser hygiene. Contact her at [email protected].