The use of laser technology in the surgical and dental industries is quickly growing, thanks in part to developments that are making them easier to use than ever before. LightScalpel, a Seattle-based manufacturer of innovative freestanding lasers featuring carbon dioxide technology, prides itself on staying ahead of the curve with regard to dental lasers.
Robert A. Strauss, DDS, MD, FACS, an oral and maxillofacial surgery professor and director of the residency and training program at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, sums up this benefit succinctly: “Before the smaller, freestanding laser was developed, lasers were designed for use in the operating room rather than an outpatient facility,” he explains. “Now, I not only can transfer the laser from room to room but from office to office as well.”
Strauss, whose interest in lasers predates his surgical training, has been implementing dental lasers in the operatory since the early 1980s. “LightScalpel lasers have been a tremendous aid to my procedures for the past 25 years,” he attests. “Now, the handpiece is the size of a pen, and the flexible fiber hollow waveguide delivery system allows easier access to various parts of the patient’s face and mouth.”
Strauss finds that the advantages of using the LightScalpel laser for both the patient and the clinician go hand in hand. “The laser enables me to perform surgical procedures quickly, more efficiently, and often without any blood,” he says. “Additionally, it allows me to treat large surface area lesions, such as dysplasias and leukoplakias, through superficial ablation. Now, we can even do these procedures in the office, whereas we used to be required to perform them in the operating room.”
From the standpoint of pediatric dentistry, Richard Baxter, DMD, MS, switched to LightScalpel lasers after finding the laser he was using took too long to use in procedures. “In 2016, I switched to the LightScalpel laser because of its more efficient cutting ability, but I quickly realized that the patients seemed to experience less pain during and after the procedure,” Baxter reminisces. “With the previous laser I was using, it took around a minute per area of tissue that needed to be released. With the LightScalpel CO2 laser, it only takes around 15 seconds, with the patient calming down almost immediately after. This makes the procedure more bearable for myself, the patient, and his or her parents.”
Because the use of an aiming beam is not necessary, Baxter is able to more precisely remove fibers of fascia while easily avoiding important anatomical structures, such as the lingual nerve and vessels under the tongue. “Additionally,” he asserts, “the clean surgical field with little to no bleeding allows a full release of restricted tissue under the tongue and full range of motion, in turn giving the child the best chance of proper function with speech, feeding, and sleep.”
As for education, Strauss and Baxter both stress the importance of proper training, as well as understanding the physics of lasers. According to Baxter, LightScalpel provides a free “test-drive” to those interested in purchasing one of its lasers; this includes a team member coming to the office to set the unit up and walking the clinician through proper protocols and techniques. Strauss also notes that LightScalpel offers a number of courses taught by well-known laser users, along with additional written materials.
Regarding the future of lasers, Strauss sees units getting smaller, more affordable, and better at adapting to different environments and indications. Both Strauss and Baxter believe that as more clinicians realize the advantages of dental lasers, the number of users will continue to grow-and that LightScalpel will be at the forefront of development.
Originally Published in Compendium – January 2020 – Volume 41, Issue 1.