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Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.
We have seen some tremendous advances in our beloved profession of dentistry in the last 25 years or so. As computing power has increased, research and development in many areas of dentistry has allowed us opportunities to perform procedures that would have had G.V. Black as happy as a hungry shark in a swimming pool full of tuna.
One of the areas where we have seen incredible progress has been in the design and use of diode lasers. When diode lasers first came to dentistry, they were expensive, cart-based and difficult to use. Early models were easily the size of a large laptop computer in length and width, while being a few inches in height. The price tag also was steep, with prices more than $20,000. While few argued with the clinical applications and results, many were rightly unconvinced when the price was figured into the cost/benefit analysis of such devices.
Well, fast forward to the present and behold the benefit of the hard work by engineers who toil to make our jobs easier. Diode lasers are now powerful, amazingly portable and, most importantly, affordable.
I have recently been able to spend some quality time with an incredible new diode laser from BIOLASE. It is called the BIOLASE Epic X and, for those of you looking for a diode laser, it should be on a short list of lasers to consider.
The Epic X is a well designed and well thought out unit. The first thing I noticed as I unboxed it was the overall esthetics of the device. The screen is a color touchscreen LCD and is at the perfect angle to be seen while making preoperative selections. It comes with a variety of preset procedures with recommended settings that can be accessed quickly and easily, making the parameter selection easy for both the novice and experienced user.
The handpiece is removable and autoclavable, which is a great benefit in helping to speed setup, as no barrier wrap is needed to avoid cross contamination. The handpiece also can be fitted with a variety of single-use tips to access any area of the mouth, as well as a handpiece to be used for biostimulation in pain relief (a BIOLASE exclusive) and a whitening contour handpiece for patients desiring laser-assisted in-office whitening.
The most commonly used tips are the ones used intraorally. They are disposable (no need to cut and prepare a new fiber every procedure) and adjustable to any angle. They can even be purchased pre-initiated to save time.
There are several different wavelengths of diode lasers on the market currently. The Epic X is a 940nm laser, which provides excellent hemostasis no matter the procedure. The 940nm wavelength is well absorbed by hemoglobin, which means the operator can perform procedures in a virtually bloodless field. The ability to visualize the operative field is enhanced exponentially by the fact that the Epic X coagulates as it cuts.
The Epic X has an amazing 10 watts of power yet weighs only 2.5 pounds, making it a completely powerful and portable solution for the busy office. It is also powered by an internal rechargeable battery, meaning it can be plugged into AC power in one operatory and then be unplugged and moved to other treatment areas without the need for dragging along a cord.
It also has a wireless foot pedal, which means the Epic is a truly cordless system. Trust me when I say that in a busy practice, reducing the need for cords may not seem like a big deal, but moving a device down the hall while dragging a foot pedal by its cord IS a big deal. Also, this allows you to simply sit down, move the pedal to the most ergonomic spot and begin treatment. In my office, we do away with cords any time we can.
BIOLASE has put a lot of thought into the device to make it as easy to use as possible. The handpiece cord is 2 meters long, which means you can place the device on almost any available counter space and it will easily reach the patient. As you know, I’ve written lately on our lack of “countertop real estate” to accommodate our devices so I was pleased to see the Epic X has a small footprint, allowing it to be kept on a countertop or in a drawer for quick and easy access.
While Epic X contains the traditional items you would expect to “initiate” a diode laser tip before use, BIOLASE has included new “pre-initiated” tips as well. Initiated tips are necessary to perform surgical procedures and gingival curettage, so these pre-initiated tips save time for the hygiene team. Of course, you can always initiate the tip yourself using the supplies included with the Epic X.
The Epic X comes with everything an office would need to get started using it on soft-tissue procedures right away. That includes two soft-tissue handpieces, three pairs of protective eyewear (a must for laser use), screen protector barriers for the touchscreen, soft-tissue tips, two initiator blocks, footswitch and more. The company also provides an eight-hour online course to bring users quickly up to speed on procedures, safety, etc.
I have found the BIOLASE Epic X to be an easy-to-use laser that has provided a variety of procedures for my patients. It’s obvious from the moment you see the device that the company spent a significant amount of time “getting it right.” Over the years, I have used a variety of lasers in my practice. They are truly one of the most-used and appreciated pieces of gear I have in my “technology tool belt.” If you have not yet explored the world of soft-tissue lasers, you really owe it to yourself and your patients to do so. The lasers in my practice are routinely used multiple times per day for a wide variety of procedures. I even get the occasional referral from other offices to perform frenectomies or cosmetic recontouring for my peers. You’ll be amazed at what a laser can do for your practice and should definitely check out the Epic X from BIOLASE. It has proven to be a home-run device in my hands.