Evaluating Laser Technologies
Ask the right questions for your practice
Lynn Atkinson, RDH
Dental hygienists have essential skills and experience, but technology, equipment, and advanced procedures also elevate our practice and directly impact the patient's experience. Having access to advanced care such as dental laser technology can significantly improve the process, as well as the outcome, for the patient. These benefits include less pain, faster healing, preciseness, bacterial reduction, and less fear for future dental procedures. This causes a ripple effect around the relationship with the patient and the reputation of the practice, as well as the revenue of the practice.
The question isn't whether hygienists should adopt a dental laser into their practice, but instead what questions to ask when evaluating the right one(s) for patients and teams.
Which procedures will be performed at the office?
Laser wavelengths will determine not only which chromophore (target) they are absorbed in, but which procedures can be performed. When looking at incorporating lasers into the practice, hygienists need to determine which laser wavelengths will work best for their specific needs. Diode lasers are the most common used in dentistry today, especially in the dental hygiene department. These soft-tissue lasers offer many advantages over traditional surgical and therapeutic techniques. The most common procedures used in the dental hygiene operatory include Laser Bacterial Reduction, Laser Assisted Periodontal Therapy, hemostasis, treatment of oral lesions (aphthous ulcers and herpetic lesions), laser desensitization, and photobiomodulation.
Who designed the product?
When investing in a new technology, consider the background of who designed the product. For example, one laser currently on the market was designed for hygienists by hygienists. Designers should have experience in dental laser procedures and the technology behind the laser, along with a deep understanding of the challenges that may arise. The hygienist industry is a strong and influential community, and colleagues' judgment and feedback are invaluable. Finding other clinicians' reviews1 of the technology can provide trusted guidance in the decision-making process. It is important to find more than one review and read through the differences for the full scope of understanding.
What studies or data are available
The data available on claims made for a product or technology can assist the clinician in making the final decision for patient care. For example, lasers have been evaluated in the Journal of Periodontology from a clinical trial conducted at The McGuire Institute, confirming that patient-reported outcomes were significantly better after laser procedures.2 Establishing this form of third-party validation is extremely important when choosing a product to fit a practice’s specific needs, and provide confidence that patient feedback on laser therapy procedures will be positive.
Does the manufacturer provide training and ongoing support
To quickly get up to speed on new equipment and technology, make sure that the purchase comes with training resources and ongoing support. The more complex the tools, the more support the practitioner will want to have.
It may be helpful to join a community of dental hygienists with a similar interest in the newest laser technology.3 These groups bring together leaders in the industry to empower hygienists in providing the highest quality of preventive and therapeutic laser therapy.
How does technology impact the dental practice as a whole
At the end of the day, the most important question is how the patient is affected. Today’s patients want—and expect—the highest quality of clinical care. Many patients are aware that dental lasers give this caliber of care, either from their own research or through conversations with dental professionals. Patients are now looking at lasers to improve whole-body health. Laser technology allows for improved oral and systemic health, maximum efficiency, and increased patient compliance. The practice will be able to add revenue while providing the patient with optimum care, patient satisfaction, loyalty, and compliance.
Lynn Atkinson, RDH
Dental Laser Educator
1. Clinician Spotlight. BIOLASE website. https://www.biolase.com/blog/category/clinician-spotlight/. Accessed December 14, 2021.
2. Clem D, Heard R, McGuire M, et at. Comparison of Er,Cr:YSGG laser to minimally invasive surgical technique in the treatment of intrabony defects: six-month results of a multicenter, randomized, controlled study. J Periodontol. 2021;92(4):496-506.
3. Epic Hygiene Academy. BIOLASE website. https://www.biolase.com/lp/eha/. Accessed December 14, 2021.