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    3 cases showing the breakthrough of laser dentistry

    How advances in laser technology have changed what clinicians can do.

    The use of lasers in dentistry today has evolved from its beginnings in 1960.

    In that year, Theodore H. Maiman, using a theory originally postulated by Einstein, created a device where a ruby crystal medium was stimulated by energy, and radiant, laser light was emitted from the crystal. In other words, he developed the first laser and called it Maser.

    The search for a laser system with broader applications in dentistry led Dr. Terry Meyers and his brother William, an ophthalmologist, to select the Nd: YAG laser for experiments on the removal of incipient caries. Soon after, they began developing the first true dental laser system, which, according to textbooks and published literature, sparked the dental laser revolution and the first widespread exposure of lasers to dentistry.

    In May 1991, the FDA granted a marketing clearance to American Dental Laser for soft-tissue uses. Awareness surged forward, and there were several major research projects underway using newer wavelengths in the experimental cutting of enamel and dentin. A valuable concept developed by Miserendino and Pick was that laser energy could create analgesia in a tooth because the natural waveguides in tooth structure could deliver energy to the pulpal that would decrease perceived pain in the C-afferent fibers.

    The 1990s saw birth of erbium that had an absorption affinity to water and hydroxyapatite, as well as, somewhat, to melanin. By May 1997, Premier Laser obtained the first marketing clearance from the FDA to cut enamel and dentin in adults using an Er: YAG laser, a device readily available in dermatology and plastic surgery. In 1998, after more than 10 years of research and investigation, BIOLASE obtained a marketing clearance for an Er: YSGG device to allow cutting hard tissue in adults with a similar clearance for children soon thereafter (1999). There were further breakthroughs in laser endodontics (2002), apicoectomy (2002), cutting and shaving oral osseous tissues (2003), as well as the most complete list of procedures related to periodontal therapy, including laser curettage and osseous crown lengthening (2004). Other laser companies have managed to obtain a few of these same clearances later.

    On-demand webinar: Understanding dental laser wavelengths and how they affect procedures

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