Using lasers correctly

May 2, 2010
Hanging a picture securely on the wall requires more than just a nail and hammer.

by Karen Kaiser, RDH
[email protected]

Hanging a picture securely on the wall requires more than just a nail and hammer. Merely eying a spot and putting the nail into the wallboard without checking for a wall frame stud means the nail will have nothing to seat firmly into. As a result, the nail could give way under the weight of the picture and fall off the wall.

A better way to make sure the picture stays where it should is to use a laser line level and stud finder before driving the nail into the wall. The device will detect a stud in the wall, which allows nail placement to be more exact. Eradicating harmful bacteria with today’s technology also uses laser devices to target specific bacteria and level the line in favor of patient health.

Dental lasers are used on hard and soft tissues. Conducted light energy is emitted and transferred to tissues using a wand-type delivery for ablation of tissue. The laser units are much more compact and operator friendly than even just 10 years ago. For periodontal procedures the laser is effective as a nonsurgical adjunct. The light energy can be transferred using a fiber that is placed into a perio-involved pocket to disinfect the pocket, ablating destructive bacteria. A benefit of laser use is that it creates an attractive environment for the reattachment of tissue, thus improving patients’ periodontal probe scores.

Since 2002 I have used lasers and have had a lot of success treating patients with periodontal disease. There are also products that work well on tissue after it has been exposed to the laser. Sunstar Butler offers a bio-adherent mucosal coating, Rincinol P.R.N., which I place on the tissues after laser procedures. Rincinol P.R.N. does not sting tissues, promotes healing, and includes aloe vera in a black licorice flavored formula. It is available over the counter and formulated for use on a variety of mouth irritations.

Vitamin E liquid applied to the area promotes soothing healing after laser procedures. If the product is supplied in a medicine dropper, the vitamin E can be squirted in the area using a cotton applicator or microbrush.

Clinician safety

Safely using lasers requires protection for the clinician. The eyes must be protected and a high-barrier mask must be worn so as not to inhale the fumes. Maximum filtration is offered by Medicom/Premier Elite’s Safe+Mask. This American-made mask exceeds ASTM 2100 performance standards with BFE and PFE filtration greater than 99%.

Fiberglass used in mask manufacturing can cause scratching and itching for sensitive faces, and the Safe +Mask is fiberglass-free as well as latex-free. Eye protection is crucial to safe laser use. Orascoptic offers magnification coupled with laser-filtered protection in their customized laser loupes. The protection is built into the main lens as well as the magnification telescope. Orascoptic offers the loupes for popular wavelengths and provides them with black side shields. When considering laser eyewear without magnification, search for medical safety glasses online for a stylish and affordable line available in many wavelengths.

Not all lasers in dentistry require eye protection. Laser cavity detection does not require protective eyewear; however, misusing the laser light and looking directly at the glowing beam is not recommended. The DIAGNOdent laser detection aids work by detecting incipient and sublesions using light energy and laser fiber-optic tubing. The DIAGNOdent operates at a wavelength frequency of 655nm. Carious tooth structure will fluoresce at this wavelength and the unit will display a quantitative reading for the clinician.

Lasers are useful. Protective eyewear and masks are essential. Get on a level working field and reflect on using lasers in your practice.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates.

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