Postoperative Patient Considerations Following Soft Tissue Laser Treatment
With the advent of laser treatment, a variety of clinical procedures can now be completed within a reasonable time period and with minimal patient discomfort. Laser treatment is optimal for patients who fear drills, as a fast and unique cutting action is used without heat, vibration, or pressure. The American Dental Association has approved laser treatment as safe for all patients, and less postoperative infection has been reported with laser treatment (as opposed to the traditional use of a scalpel). The advantages of laser dentistry treatment include but are not limited to the following:
- Potential to eliminate the need for sutures and anesthesia;
- Reduced postoperative pain and sensitivity in the patient;
- Ability to decrease patient anxiety and fear of dental procedures;
- Elimination of bleeding;
- Removal of bacteria in the treated area and complete sterilization; and
- The ability to provide precise treatment of only infected tissues, leaving healthy tissues intact.
Laser treatment is more than just an aesthetic procedure, allowing the clinician to manage problematic teeth and gingival tissues, helping to create healthier and stronger soft tissues and teeth (Table). The advantages of laser treatment make for shorter operative time, faster postoperative recuperation, and a more comfortable patient experience in general.
Relieving Anxieties About Laser Dentistry
Although laser dentistry has been proven to be less invasive and painful than scalpel-based treatment, many patients may still experience anxiety concerning laser procedures.
To alleviate such unease, patients are encouraged to ask dental professionals about the extent of his or her laser education and training. Dental professionals should have participated in educational courses and received training by reputable educators and experienced laser users. If anxiety still persists, a patient can opt for topical anesthesia, to ensure no pain will be experienced. General anesthesia can even be used to sedate a patient and minimize the distress and apprehension he or she may be experiencing.
Postoperative Considerations, Healing, and Aesthetics
Postoperative care is often minimal, due in part to the fact that the healing process can be expedited. Patients are usually instructed to care for treated areas with an antiseptic, such as chlorhexidine, an anti-microbial agent available in many forms such as gels and rinses. Treatments such as this can be effective in controlling gingival diseases, and can be used postoperatively for cleaning intraoral tissue. Patients may also be instructed to rinse with warm saline solutions several times each day, and to begin brushing gently around the site treated after a few days. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could also be used to help with inflammation and discomfort that may be experienced. As always, proper hygiene should be followed pre- and postoperatively, including brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and limiting the occurrence of sugar intake throughout the day on a regular basis.
The applications for laser dentistry in daily practice continue to expand as evidence in scientific trials validates such procedures. Patients benefit from laser dentistry, as healing time, pain, and anxiety may be reduced significantly due to the quick and refined treatment the laser can provide. Recovery is much easier and faster due to the simultaneous ability of the laser to cauterize tissue as it vaporizes other tissue. In addition to comfortably repositioning unaesthetic gingival tissue, surgical procedures and treatments can be made much less painful, while healing much quicker. Laser dentistry supports the management of tooth or gingival problems, all while reducing time, pain, and anxiety.
Numerous resources are available to assist patients who request additional information on laser contouring. They include:
- The Academy of Laser Dentistry
- The Future of Dental Lasers
Table 1: Conventional Applications of Dental Lasers
Table. Conventional Applications of Dental Lasers
Soft tissue dental lasers can help detect cavities in their early stages by detecting the by-products produced by tooth decay.
Pain associated with cold sores can be minimized by dental lasers, and healing time can be minimized, as well.
Reshaping of gingival tissue can not only provide improved aesthetics; if can provide healthier tooth structures and stronger foundations for restorations.
The need for local anesthetic injection can be completely eliminated by hard tissue lasers. Bacteria can be killed, and this can help lead to improved long-term restorations.
Temporomandibular joint treatment
Pain and inflammation related to temporomandibular joint disorder can be quickly reduced with dental laser treatment.
Tubules located on the root of the tooth responsible for hot and cold tooth sensitivity can be sealed using a dental laser.
The bleaching process associated with tooth whitening may be sped up by laser treatment, leading to less in-office work and quicker recovery.