Laser Dentistry

A revolutionary new dental instrument that uses a beam of light to remove diseased tissue and destroy bacteria is now being used by some 600 dentists across the country, including Dr. John Graeber in East Hanover. For many dental patients, it may mean never again facing the dreaded needle, since a wide variety of laser procedures can be "performed" without anesthesia.

"I couldn't believe he did the whole thing without giving me a needle," said Vera Marcantonio, a patient of Dr. Graeber's. "The only noise I heard was a slight popping sound and I couldn't feel a thing. It was incredible."

The pulsed Nd: YAG dental laser was installed in Dr. Graeber's office, 470 Ridgedale Avenue, on March 20. Dr. Graeber is using the instrument to treat a broad range of dental problems. The laser has great success in numbing teeth without a needle, sterilizing a tooth during a root canal procedure, and even removing some decay when filling a cavity.

One of the most revolutionary uses of the laser is the non-surgical treatment of gum disease. Though more severe cases still require traditional surgery, many dentists are finding that the laser often gives them the option of foregoing the scalpel.

The dental laser's fiber optic tip can be inserted into pockets of infection between the tooth and gum where it removes diseased tissue a few cell layers at a time. The laser's intense light destroys disease-causing bacteria. Dentists report that after a few treatments, the infected pockets often may begin to shrink. In some cases, the gum tissue actually begins to re-adhere to the tooth.

The laser is expected to have a major impact on the nation's dental health by bringing treatment to a large segment of the population, which has avoided dentistry because of fear. It is estimated that over 34 million Americans fail to seek needed treatment due to fear of pain. Several breakthroughs allowed the new instrument known as the American Dental Laser, to overcome obstacles that thwarted earlier attempts to develop a true dental laser. Because its beam is directed through a lightweight, flexible optical fiber, the laser allows dentists to reach even difficult areas of the mouth. Earlier experimental lasers were forced to use comparatively clumsy mechanical arms with larger and heavier hand pieces.

According to Dr. Graeber. the laser may be the most important dental breakthrough in a generation. "It already has had a tremendous impact on my practice," Dr. Graeber said. "My patients are more relaxed and that means less stress for me. And the laser lets us do things we couldn't do before. The results were getting make me excited to see what each new day brings."