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Dental Lasers 101: Types of Dental Lasers & Uses

Dental Lasers 101: Types of Dental Lasers & Uses


Laser dentistry is a relatively new concept in the dental industry, but it has already proven to be exceptionally useful. Safco Dental Supply is here to serve as your trusted resource for all things laser dentistry and general dental supplies. Within this article, we will discuss the benefits and uses of laser dentistry. 


The Role of Lasers in Dentistry

Since the 1990s, lasers have been used in a wide range of dental treatment applications, with new and innovative uses being discovered regularly.

What many people may actually not know is that “LASER” is an acronym that stands for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”. Lasers deliver energy in the form of light, which allows them to be used to cut or vaporize tissue – both hard and soft. They can also be used to whiten teeth by enhancing the power and effectiveness of whitening agents.


Below are some common uses for lasers in dentistry:

  • Reshaping or removing gum tissue
  • Reshaping or removing bone tissue
  • Removing tooth enamel (usually to prepare for a composite restoration)
  • Crown lengthening
  • Frenectomy treatment
  • Biopsy treatment


Laser Cavity Detection

Dental lasers make it possible to quickly and easily identify tooth decay – even in the earliest stages.


DIAGNOdent is a handheld device that emits a laser beam to the teeth, examines the fluorescence of the tooth, produces a sound, and alerts the provider if decay is detected. This system is exceptionally intelligent and precise, able to detect even the smallest bits of decay in both occlusal and proximal areas.


This process is quick, painless, and noninvasive. Laser cavity detection can be a valuable asset for your practice in that it provides patients with a much more comfortable and enjoyable chairside experience while simultaneously allowing them to take an exceptionally proactive approach to their dental health.


Laser Dentistry for Gum Disease

Soft tissue lasers can be used to remove the diseased gum tissue while avoiding healthy gum tissue. The bactericidal nature of laser treatment also ensures that the treatment area is completely free of harmful bacteria.


Lasers can also be used to seal nerve endings and blood vessels, which provides patients with a much more comfortable post-operative experience and promotes rapid healing.


Lasers like the NV® Pro3 Microlaser can be used for periodontal, restorative, orthodontic and surgical procedures and is conveniently portable. For exceptional performance in a desktop laser, the SOL® Desktop Laser offers power and precision for soft-tissue procedures.


Teeth Whitening with Lasers

During this procedure, lasers are used to accelerate bleaching agents and increase treatment effectiveness.


Laser teeth whitening produces incredible results and allows providers to take a more targeted approach to the whitening process. Thus, it is possible to better avoid the gums. 


While other methods of teeth whitening – such as Zoom – whiten all of the teeth at once, lasers are used to whiten one tooth at a time. This is something to consider if time is a deciding factor for you or your patients. 


While the process may take longer than other whitening methods, it is important to keep in mind that laser teeth whitening provides patients with a much more comfortable and custom-tailored experience.


Dental Fillings and Tooth Preparations

Dental lasers can be used to replace traditional methods of restorative dental work that would otherwise require the use of a dental handpiece/drill.


Hard tissue lasers are used to remove the decayed portion of the tooth, providing a quick, painless, and minimally invasive procedure for patients. 


The use of a dental laser for cavities can also be beneficial in that it eliminates the need for a dental drill. Many patients experience significant dental anxiety even just from the sound of the dental drill. Consequently, the use of a dental laser can ensure that your patients have a stress-free treatment experience.


Treating Hypersensitivity with Lasers

Lasers can be used to target the tubules and seal them off, ultimately desensitizing the tooth. This is a process known as laser root desensitization, and it can typically be completed without any type of anesthetic.


How Dental Lasers Work

Lasers use highly concentrated energy to create a narrow and concentrated beam of light that can actually be used to physically cut through substances. 

For instance, as mentioned above, dental lasers can be used to cut through both soft and hard tissues in a wide range of treatment applications.


Different Types of Dental Lasers

In the dental industry, there are four common types of lasers: 


  • Diode: Diode lasers have seen a recent growth in popularity due to their affordable price point and compact size. This type of laser can be used in both contact and non-contact modes, functioning with either gated or continuous wave pulse modes.

Diode lasers can only be used for soft tissue treatments. They are useful for frenectomies, biopsies, gingivectomies, and impression troughing. They have also proven to be useful during periodontal procedures and laser-assisted tooth whitening treatments.


  • Nd:YAG: In 1990, Nd:YAG lasers became the first type of pulsed laser that was marketed for dental use. They are known to have excellent biostimulative properties, and they encourage blood coagulation – a valuable asset for extraction and soft tissue procedures.

In most cases, this type of dental laser is used for periodontal treatments, as they allow full debridement and periodontal pocket disinfection. Longer pulse duration settings help stimulate fibrin formation (blood coagulation), as previously mentioned.


  • Erbium: Erbium lasers are built with two different types of crystals: Er:YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet crystal) and Er,Cr:YSGG ( chromium sensitized yttrium scandium gallium garnet crystal).

This type of laser has proven to be both hard and soft tissue capable. It also holds the most FDA clearances for different dental procedures. Preparation that is done with erbium lasers is efficient and can be done without local anesthesia in many cases. The laser has a disinfecting effect on both the dentin and enamel. Smear layer is virtually eliminated.

During soft tissue work with an erbium laser, there is considerable thermal relaxation and little to no heat penetration into the tissues beneath. In turn, healing after the use of an erbium laser is typically observed to be quite quick.


  • CO2: CO2 lasers were released in the 1970s and have found a place in dentistry since the mid 1990s. This type of laser functions with either continuous wave or gated modes.

CO2 lasers are typically used for incising tissue during procedures such as biopsies, frenectomies, gingivectomies, and more. Controlled thermal effects provide patients with a quick and comfortable healing experience.

While traditional CO2 lasers were only compatible with soft tissue treatments, new models are hard tissue capable, as well. 


Hard Tissue Lasers

Hard tissue lasers are used for:

  • Teeth whitening
  • Caries prevention/removal
  • Cavity preparation
  • Hypersensitivity


Soft Tissue Lasers

Soft tissue lasers are used for:

  • Reshaping and removal of gum tissue
  • Frenectomy treatments
  • Wound healing


Benefits of Using Lasers in Dentistry

Below are some of the benefits of using lasers in dentistry:

  • Eliminates the need for a dental drill, which can be exceptionally beneficial for patients who have dental anxiety
  • Encourages a quicker and more comfortable healing process
  • Minimizes bleeding and swelling in soft tissues
  • Promotes blood clot formation
  • Reduced chance of post-operative infection
  • Less damage to surrounding tissues
  • May render anesthesia unnecessary in some cases
  • Reduced treatment/chairside time
  • Bactericidal effects


The Risks and Limitations of Dental Lasers

While dental lasers can be exceptionally useful for clinical applications and are usually quite safe, it is important to consider the risks and limitations that come along with their use.


Consider the following:

  • Dental lasers have the potential to damage or injure the eyes. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that both patients and providers wear protective eyewear.
  • The plume that is released while using a dental laser may be potentially hazardous. In turn, high-speed evacuation must be used to control the plume, and masks must be worn by dental providers.
  • Gum tissue injuries are possible, though it is important to keep in mind that this is a potential risk with both laser and traditional methods.
  • In some cases, dental lasers can cause damage or injury to the skin if improperly used.
  • Laser dentistry can not be used on teeth that have preexisting fillings. They also can not be used for crown or bridge preparations.
  • Laser dentistry is not yet fully recognized by dental insurance networks; in some cases, treatment will not be covered. This is an important factor that must be discussed with your patients while planning their treatment.


Learn More About Using Lasers in Your Dental Practice from Safco

It’s easy to see why laser dentistry is becoming so popular – with both patients and providers alike.


For high-quality instruments and dental equipment, place your trust in Safco Dental Supply. We provide a wide range of disposable dental products to fit every need, with free shipping on orders over $250. Whatever you need for your practice, we have you covered.


We strive to get you your products as fast as possible. All orders placed before 4:30 pm CST (3:30 pm on Friday) are shipped out same-day.


Give us a call at 800.621.2178 to speak with one of our experts about how your practice may benefit from laser dentistry.


Looking for more informative dental blogs? Safco Dental Supply is proud to serve as your one-stop dental source. Learn more about dental supplies and equipment, such as our piece on dental curing lights.

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