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Inside Dental Hygiene
February 2022
Volume 0, Issue 0

Lasers in the Dental Hygiene Space

Stay active with the latest technology

Angie Wallace, RDH

Lasers and other technologies continue to evolve in many directions—and be employed for oral healthcare. Dental hygienists, already familiar with lasers (especially diode), know these can be used for different functions, such as laser bacteria reduction (LBR), laser assisted periodontal therapy (LAPT), lesions, desensitization, hemostasis, and of course cutting procedures performed by a dentist.

An increasing number of clinicians are purchasing lasers and receiving proper training with organizations such as the Academy of Laser Dentistry to make sure they know how and when to use a laser. Training and certification should always be sought from a reputable organization with solid credentials.

With an eye on the dental hygiene space, this article highlights several devices that have been gaining attention, along with others on the horizon.

Red Light Therapy (RLT)

MaryLynn Smith, a colleague of mine, has a wellness studio that employs red light, NIR full body light therapy. According to Ari Whitten in his book, The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy, this technology was developed by NASA and targets the mitochondria of the cells to produce increased energy and optimize function. Researchers have studied RLT's anti-aging effects (including collagen and elastin synthesis), as well as its ability to lower inflammation, accelerate wound healing, provide pain relief, and help prevent cognitive decline. In terms of oral health applications, RLT may help combat gingivitis, promote healthy gums, and improve immunity and quality of sleep.

Several cellular mechanisms are targeted during RLT; however, inflammation is one of the most important cellular mechanisms that red/NIR light can impact. Red/NIR light increases mitochondrial energy production through two key mechanisms:

1. Stimulating adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production in the mitochondria

2. Creating a temporary low-dose metabolic stress

Through these mechanisms, full-body light therapy can treat herpetic lesions, enhance fat loss, facilitate wound healing, and increase speed of healing. It should be noted, however, that with red/NIR therapy, a little is good, but that doesn't mean that a lot is better.

Photobiomodulation Therapy

Another procedure gaining recognition is photobiomodulation (PBM) or low level laser therapy. PBM therapy is now the standard of care for oral mucositis with cancer association. Several standalone units for PBM therapy are available for purchase in a variety of price ranges.

For example, the THOR Laser (THOR Photo-medicine) is a well-known PBM therapy with a complete list of protocols for different areas of the body.

Also available are PBM lasers that attach to dental lasers, which can be utilized by dental professionals depending on their scope of practice. For example, the Gemini Laser (Ultradent)) and the Epic X laser (Biolase) both have specialized tips that can be purchased to provide PBM therapy.

Blue Wavelength Lasers

Another technology of interest to oral healthcare practitioners is blue wavelength lasers. These operate at 445 nm and achieve greater photo chemical effect than red light by disrupting the bacterial membrane.

The SiroLaser Blue (Dentsply Sirona) was the first FDA-cleared blue laser for dental use. In its application, blue laser light has a much higher absorption in soft tissue (ie, hemoglobin and melanin) than conventional infrared diode laser wavelengths (810 nm, 940 nm, 970 nm). This leads to improved soft tissue cutting efficiency, which allows for non-contact cutting, a first in dentistry for diode lasers.

Other Technologies

In addition to staying knowledgeable about innovations in laser dentistry, dental hygienists should be aware of other new products and technologies. For example, the AIR-N-GO air polisher by ACTEON provides subgingival air polishing with a natural glycine base and low abrasiveness, preserving the treated surface. It is clinically proven to reduce biofilm subgingivally, is safe to use on implants, and is far less abrasive than baking soda. This unit offers several different nozzles.

PerioSciences' wound healing dressing is an antioxidant infused oral gel, toothpaste, and mouth rinse that helps keep the teeth and gums healthy. This set of PerioSciences products, which is all food grade and contains aloe, is immensely beneficial for gum tissue.

SockIt! (OraSoothe®) is a hydrogel wound dressing for management of all oral wounds. SockIt! is drug-free and non-toxic, providing important benefits to oral wounds.

Another new technology that has dental applications as well as other health benefits is EarSeeds ear acupressure kits (EarSeeds). Acupressure sends signals to the central nervous system (CNS) and can be used for a variety of conditions, including dental pain. Seeds are placed on acupoints of the ear, where they apply pressure to nerve endings that communicate with the CNS to mitigate pain, reducing use of pain relievers by patients.

With any innovative technology, dental hygienists always need to do their research, make sure that they are up-to-date on the techniques involved in utilizing new products, and ensure they have received proper training for the dental setting.

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