Pandemic-Related Benefits of Laser Dentistry
Boost patient numbers and profitability while delivering cutting-edge care
Bruce L. Cassis, DDS
According to an ongoing survey on the economic impact of COVID-19 by the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute, as of September 2021, approximately 60% of responding dental practices reported that they were seeing the same number of patients that they had been prior to the pandemic.1 The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a number of guidelines2 to establish how dental practices can safely operate, but for many offices, it is nearly impossible to appoint the same number of patients on a day-to-day basis that they had been prior to the pandemic because of social distancing guidelines, the time-consuming process of disinfection, and safety concerns regarding the production of aerosols by traditional dental tools.
The financial impact of COVID-19 has been felt by dental practices all over the United States, including my own. When my practice temporarily closed its doors in the spring of 2020, we focused on improving safety and complying with infection control protocols in order to adequately prepare for the patient increase that we expected to see upon reopening. According to the ADA, one of the best ways to help reduce the transmission of the virus is to reduce aerosol production. The all-tissue dental laser that I was using in my practice produced 98% less aerosols when compared with traditional high-speed handpieces,3 which meant that we were already equipped to handle some of the pandemic safety concerns with our existing technology.
Putting Patients at Ease
A practices' revenue is nonexistent without its patients, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, I've seen firsthand how lasers can impact the patient experience. As patients return for routine cleanings and other procedures, we've continued to receive a lot of questions about our infection control protocols. In addition to providing education regarding our use of personal protective equipment, disinfection procedures, and other precautions to prevent transmission, my team is trained to review the benefits of laser dentistry with our patients before all procedures in order to address any questions or concerns. We make an extra effort to highlight the reduced aerosols produced by lasers, which helps to put concerned patients at ease during this time.
As a result of our efforts, our patient numbers have gone back up to approximately 80% of what they were before the pandemic. Another benefit of lasers—one that has proven to be even more significant since we reopened our office—is that more procedures can be performed on a patient during a sitting, using less anesthesia, which improves production and allows more patients to be treated throughout a single day. Shorter procedural times also save money for both the practice and the patient, demonstrating yet another way that dental lasers can contribute to a practice's bottom line.
Patient Retention and Generation
In order to comply with COVID-19 safety recommendations, we only had to make minor changes because we were already using dental lasers for most of our procedures. We did not have to spend significant time and financial resources researching and ordering new equipment in order to protect employees and patients—our technology was already doing that. This encouraged long-time patients to continue seeking dental treatment at our offices, and even helped us to generate new patients. The use of laser technology at our practice has helped us maintain our commitment to delivering painless results while ensuring the safety and comfort of our patients. For any dental professionals who aren't already using lasers, there's still time to consider the financial benefits that they could bring to your practice, especially during the pandemic. COVID-19 has further underscored the value of dental lasers regarding patient safety and reinforced the benefits that they can have on a practice's profitability, which many have had to reevaluate throughout the pandemic.
Invest in Your Patients
Since I first adopted lasers nearly 20 years ago, I've personally experienced their many benefits in my practice; however, the benefits have been even more pronounced during this unprecedented crisis. Having dental lasers already implemented in the office prior to COVID-19 was instrumental in the success of our reopening because they helped us to open safely and continue to deliver the same level of patient care that we had in the past. As we all know, technology will continue to evolve, but dental lasers are a timeless investment for your practice and, most importantly, your patients.
About the Author
Bruce L. Cassis, DDS, is a master of the Academy of General Dentistry who maintains a private practice in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
1. ADA Health Policy Institute. COVID-19 economic impact on dental practices. ADA website. https://www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute/covid-19-dentists-economic-impact. Published March 23, 2020. Accessed September 24, 2021.
2. CDC. CDC updates COVID-19 infection prevention and control guidance. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/statement-COVID.html. Updated September 10, 2021. Accessed September 24, 2021.
3. BIOLASE. Less is more. BIOLASE website. https://www.biolase.com/lessismore. Accessed September 24, 2021.