Could Your Cavity Be Fixed With a Laser?

Dentist Blog

If you've never had a dental cavity, you're in the minority. Only about 11% of Australians have never experienced this type of tooth decay. Perhaps you've never had to have a cavity filled. Or perhaps it's been many years since you needed one. Even those who have never needed a filling may have an idea of what to expect when they visit their dentist. The decayed portion of the tooth must be removed with a dental drill before the cavity is filled. It's not painful, although it's a stretch to suggest that it's a pleasant experience. So what would you say if your dentist informed you that they plan to fix your cavity with a laser?

Simpler and More Pleasant

Not all dental clinics currently offer laser treatment for cavities, but give it a little time — before too long, it may be the default option. The end result remains the same, but the process is simpler, and more pleasant for the patient — making it a great choice for anyone who might be a little afraid of a dental drill. 

No Anaesthetic Is Needed

Instead of using a drill, the tooth is excavated with a laser. The unpleasant vibrations of the drill head can be off-putting for some, and this is due to its proximity to the tooth's nerve. This doesn't occur when with a dental laser, and the experience is so different that anaesthetic is typically not required, unlike when a drill is used. Anaesthetic can still be given to patients whose situation warrants it, such as with someone with particularly sensitive teeth.

More Precision 

The laser functions more-or-less like a drill in that it obliterates the decayed portion of the tooth. However, it does so with more precision. The wavelength of the laser is measured in nanometres (nm). Most dental lasers operate in the 800 to 860 nm range, but a laser with reduced nm (600 to 660) may be used for your cavity, as they're incapable of achieving significant depth, allowing for greater precision with dental cavities. The heat of the laser also sterilises surrounding tissues as it works.

Filling the Cavity

Once the tooth has been excavated, a tooth-coloured filling material (composite resin) can be used to fill the cavity. This filling may be more secure than those applied after a drill has been used. The precision of the excavation can allow the filling material to bond more closely to the tooth's structure than it would if a drill was used. 

So if you're about to receive your first filling, if it's been some years since you needed one (and aren't relishing the thought of repeating the experience), or if you simply dislike the feeling of a dental drill being used on your teeth, it can be a good idea to ask your dentist if laser treatment is an option for your cavity.


24 May 2022

Dental Health: Not To Be Taken For Granted

As a retired dentist, I work with charities which visit developing countries and educate children about dental care. It gives me great satisfaction to revisit these communities and see how proud the children are of their efforts. I am acutely aware that good dental hygiene can help prevent a range of serious conditions when these children become older. I started this blog because it greatly distresses me that many people in Australia do not seem to care for their teeth as much as children in these poor communities. This is happening despite ready access to items like toothbrushes and toothpaste which are luxuries in the places I visit. It is my hope that this blog encourages you not to take dental health for granted. My greatest wish is that you can be as inspired as the children I see in my charity work. Please read on and enjoy.