Technology evolution and the Gemini laser

June 27, 2017

 The progression of technology in our world is amazing. I was recently talking with some friends and we were discussing the changes that we’ve seen since our college years. We were all pretty stunned by the changes that have taken place. When you think about it, technology has not only made our lives a lot easier in a lot of ways, but it’s also made our access to technology a lot less expensive.

The progression of technology in our world is amazing. I was recently talking with some friends and we were discussing the changes that we’ve seen since our college years. We were all pretty stunned by the changes that have taken place. When you think about it, technology has not only made our lives a lot easier in a lot of ways, but it’s also made our access to technology a lot less expensive.

Here are a few examples we came up with:

Long-distance calling. Remember when we paid to place calls outside our local area code or state? One friend reminded us of an ad campaign by Sprint that introduced spokesperson Candice Bergen as “The Dime Lady,” because the company had dropped their long-distance rates to 10 cents per minute!

Mobile phones. I lamented to them that my first “car phone” was only $1,200. This high-tech device was actually hardwired into my car so it wasn’t portable. It also took techs eight hours to install it. Oh, and I had one hour of free talk time before the rate went to 50 cents per minute. For those of you a tad younger than me, the “car phone” was replaced by the infamous “bag phone” three or four years later.

Fax machines. These things were several hundred dollars, produced barely legible copy and required a separate business phone line (which was of course much more expensive than a residential line).

So, what does this have to do with lasers and laser usage in our profession? Simply put, just like technology has advanced to give us affordable and amazingly powerful tech at our very fingertips, clinical lasers have evolved tremendously. As an example of the advances these incredible devices have made, let’s look at one of the newest on the market, the Ultradent Gemini.

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Shrinking costs

I’ve been working with lasers in a clinical setting for more than 20 years. When I first began my laser quest, the prices were substantial. Back in the late 90s, purchasing a diode laser was an investment that a practice really had to think about. Prices back then were universally over the $20,000 mark, which was an impediment for a lot of offices. Doctors who investigated the product category understood the clinical advantages of the devices, but many had a hard time justifying the cost.

Fast forward to today and diode laser prices have fallen over 50 percent.  What was at one time an extravagance has now entered the financial zone of affordability.

The Gemini is perhaps the most sophisticated diode laser on the market today and yet it costs less than $8,000.

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Shrinking footprints

Something else that has changed dramatically in the last 20 years is the size of our electronic devices, diode lasers included. The diode laser of the late 90s was about the size of a large video projector with a weight of over 10 pounds. Due to the size and weight, these were cart-based devices, which necessitated them being wheeled into a treatment area whenever they were needed. Not convenient and definitely a hassle.

The Ultradent Gemini is a mere 6.7 inches long x 5 inches wide x 10.1 inches tall. 

The height is something well worth having as the Gemini possesses the best screen of any dental device I’ve ever seen. It has a transparent electroluminescent display that projects the needed information onto a glass screen. The appearance of the screen is so stunning that I have gotten into the habit of always turning the unit on where the patient can see it. When the screen begins to glow, I never fail to get a positive reaction. 

Combine that with the fact that the Gemini weighs a mere 2.2 pounds. This exceptionally light weight makes the device totally portable with no need for a cart; in fact, it can be easily carried with one hand. It also contains a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that will provide power for one to 1½ hours before requiring a charge. That is more than enough battery power to accomplish any procedure. 

The Gemini also comes equipped with a cordless foot pedal. This Bluetooth-enabled controller means there is no fighting with, or tripping over, wires that could bring the laser crashing down.

The lack of a power cord and a foot cord is a tremendous advantage for a device that many offices may bring in only when needed.

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Greater technology brings economy of scale

The laser is named Gemini for a reason. That’s because it’s two lasers in the same device. More properly stated, it is two laser wavelengths in the same device.

There are four diode wavelengths currently in use in dentistry and there is always some discussion as to which one is best. That, of course, correlates with which one should an office purchase. 

The Gemini has both 810 nm and 980 nm available. Having two diodes in one device is a first, but Ultradent goes even further by allowing the operator to use either wavelength or both simultaneously. This means that when certain clinical situations demand it, you get the benefits of both wavelengths. For instance, when troughing for margins I prefer dual wavelengths as it creates a much smoother soft tissue surface with few tissue tags.

In the past, this situation would have been next to impossible and even to try it, you would have needed two lasers, hence doubling the hardware cost. The Gemini allows me unheard of clinical flexibility for the price of a single wavelength laser.

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Technology evolution creates choices

In addition to the dual wavelengths, Gemini also allows the operator a plethora of choices for accomplishing clinical tasks. The device comes set with 19 preset procedures that are simple to access and use. Simply scroll to and highlight the procedure needed, tap the appropriate button and everything is ready to go. Of course, you are not limited to these 19 presets. The device is totally user-friendly, with the ability to change any of the necessary settings whenever the operator chooses to.

There are also two lengths of unidose tips. There is a pre-initiated 5 mm tip and an uninitiated 7 mm tip for versatility. 

The device also has a feature that is uncommon in the world of diode lasers and that is super-pulsed power. Without going into some confusing science here, suffice it to say that a super-pulsed laser ablates tissue very efficiently with minimal chance for charring due to high peak power. This is a feature that is present due to the evolution of technology. Twenty years ago, one could purchase a super pulsed laser, but they were frequently cost prohibitive. Now, thanks to the progress we’ve seen in lasers and electronics in general, this feature is available in a small device with an affordable price point.

The handpiece can also light the unidose tips through built-in white LEDs. This provides for a very brightly illuminated field and can even be beneficial for those who are wearing supplemental lighting on their surgical telescopes. Even though my light has an output of 7500 lumens, I still get benefits from the lighted tips.

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Wrapping up

I love evolution and I love research and development. I love people that not only think outside the box, but are completely unaware that a box even existed in the first place. This is the kind of thinking we are seeing with the Ultradent Gemini. There are several diode lasers on the market and all of them perform pretty well. What the industry needed was a “next-generation” device. Something to shake up the market and to challenge the industry to see further and do better. The Gemini is one of those devices.

If you are considering purchasing a diode laser (and you should be) this is a tool that you definitely need to see and test. You will not be disappointed. I sure wasn’t.