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    10 ways lasers can make your practice money right now

    Laser dentistry is here to stay, and that’s great news.

    It was 1996. The music was grungy, and the rumor was a dot-com economy would make us all millionaires. Technology was still just beginning to transform our analog world, even in the dental practice. In Northern California, Dr. Michael Miyasaki, DDS, was working with his first laser in the dental practice, a medical laser brought over to use in dentistry.  

    “They were big, overpowered and way too much for what we needed, but they were lasers, so we were excited,” Dr. Miyasaki says. “But we didn’t understand how best to use them.”

    Fast-forward to 2017: Many clinicians now understand how best to use lasers. In fact, today’s lasers have a much simpler user interface than before and are designed for dental professionals to deliver a predictable and effective patient outcome.

    Related: 5 reasons to revisit lasers in your practice

    But despite the evolution of laser dentistry over nearly 30 years, the dental community has its fair share of skeptics about its use. Some argue that it’s a gimmick or a marketing ploy to disguise a dentist’s lack of clinical skill. Others say the cost of entry is just too high—and that the ROI on lasers just isn’t there once the initial investment is there. However, early adopters say that is not true, laser dentistry is here to stay, and that it is great news for a dental practice’s bottom line. We spoke with several industry experts to learn how laser dentistry has improved revenue for clinicians. Here’s what they had to say.

    1. Laser dentistry condenses procedure timelines by avoiding injectable anesthetic and reducing the need to manage bleeding.

    In the past, two alternatives existed for things like soft tissue re-contouring and ablation, a blade or an electrosurgery, Dr. Miyasaki explains. Both require an injectable anesthetic. Using a scalpel also requires managing the patient’s bleeding. Lasers get away from the injectable anesthetic and prompt minimal bleeding, making same-day surgery and prep feasible. 

    “I had a patient in today for some gingival contouring, and I didn’t give him an injection; I just put some topical on the tissue. When we did the gingivectomy, he was fine with it,” Dr. Miyasaki says. “It’s a kinder, gentler way of doing dentistry.”

    Dr. Jeff Rohde, MS, DDS, practices in California and uses lasers for his soft tissue surgeries also, which he describes as anesthesia-free and blood-free. “So, let’s say a 6-year-old comes in and has this flap of tissue over an erupting molar,” he says. “I just laser that little thing off. I don’t have to numb her up. There’s no bleeding, and she’s out the door. I would never have tried that before.”

    Dr. Sam Low, DDS, MS, MEd, agrees that laser dentistry is a less traumatic way to do dentistry, especially for young patients. While local anesthesia is very safe, it can cause soreness. He sees laser dentistry as a way for parents to spare their children negative emotional experiences. “As a parent, do you want your child to undergo the local anesthesia aspect—the stress, the crying, the anxiety—versus seeing a practitioner who can do restorative dentistry without local anesthesia?” Dr. Low asks.

    Dr. Low, who is also the chief dental officer and vice president of clinical and dental affairs for BIOLASE, says that some practitioners who have fully embraced laser dentistry use the laser almost on every single patient. “Part of that is the ability to do restorative dentistry, especially with children, with minimal local anesthesia,” he says.

    2. Laser dentistry adds production for routine procedures to regular hygiene visits.

    A regular hygiene appointment with an exam, bitewings and prophylaxis typically bills around $200. Many times, the dental team identifies issues like decay. 

    Dr. David Stinchfield, DDS, describes his private practice in Washougal, Washington, as technology-driven. He began using lasers 10 years ago with a laser and now uses the Solea® all-tissue laser (Convergent Dental) for both soft- and hard-tissue procedures. He appreciates how he can quickly perform fillings with his laser for decay identified in the hygiene appointment, adding additional production billing to a standard hygiene visit.

    Product roundup: The latest in dental lasers

    Because Dr. Stinchfield can fill a tooth without needing to numb the patient, he can take care of restorative procedures like this in as little as 15 minutes—for two fillings. That additional production adds another $300 to the visit. Best of all, the patient doesn’t have to return to get the dental care he or she needs.

    “That very quickly increases your return on investment for that technology if you’re doing that on a daily basis,” Dr. Stinchfield says. “Even if you just do that once a day, it will add an extra $300 a day with only 15 minutes of your time.”

    Next page: Efficiency and fewer referrals ...

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