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No Strings Attached

Issue: Fall 2011
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“No Strings Attached,” what an interesting phrase. We hear it all the time; a pitch on a TV commercial or a special deal at a sales event—and usually it gets us in trouble. We are promised something and usually don’t get what we were promised and end up with “strings attached.” In dentistry, no strings attached has numerous implications, because dentistry like other professions continues to go wireless. More and more of the technologies we have implemented into our everyday delivery of dental care have become smaller and wireless—“No Strings Attached.” Wireless remote controls, wireless intraoral cameras, and even wireless digital X-ray sensors have all become common in the modern dental office.

So is wireless always better? Does it always improve the delivery of care? Well, fewer cords in an already cluttered dental operatory seem to be a great idea. I believe in most cases—yes, wireless is better, even though I have heard of a few stories of technology becoming too small and inadvertently ending up in the trash.

In the case of dental lasers, I believe smaller is definitely better, and some lasers have become wireless. The first dental lasers were extremely big and nicknamed “coffee tables.” They were bulky, difficult to maneuver, and inefficient. Over the years, laser technology has evolved. Lasers have become smaller, more efficient, and more user friendly. Some have also become wireless. Diode lasers are quickly becoming standard equipment in the modern dental office. I believe these smaller diode lasers and the wireless handheld diode lasers make laser technology easier to incorporate into our dental practices. We already have enough foot pedals, wired devices, handpieces, and suction hoses. Sometimes it is a small feat just to position ourselves to provide care to our patients. So adding another useful tool that doesn’t clog up our operatory can be a perfect way to introduce laser technology into the dental practice.

So what advantages does a wireless handheld diode laser have over its tabletop counterparts? What features should a dentist look for in a diode laser besides size when thinking about incorporating a diode laser into their practice?

Number one is always “ease of use” when adding new technology. If it is easy to use—we will use it. Often dentists overcomplicate technology and this creates a barrier to incorporation. Remember, diode lasers are easy to use and have numerous applications in our everyday delivery of dental care. Many procedures can benefit from lasers. This helps to make our day more productive—from troughing around crown preps (also great at helping with homeostasis) to exposing subgingival decay to soft-tissue surgical procedures (gingivectomy, fibroma removal, frenectomy) and periodontal applications, the ilase can improve the level of care we provide. Because we encounter these procedures every day, a handheld wireless laser can be convenient and quickly gives us numerous advantages over tools we used in the past (scalpel, electro surge) or, in the case of crown and bridge, can greatly improve the quality of the impressions we take.

Other factors that contribute to adding a wireless laser technology to your practice should include:

  1. Size–Small diameter handheld lasers are easy to hold and operate. Because they are lightweight, they don’t create a lot of hand fatigue. They also take up very little space on the counter or in the tray setup
  2. Rechargeable battery–In the case of ilase, the battery quickly attaches directly to the body of the laser. The battery can last long enough for even the most demanding procedures and can be easily changed out. Since the ilase has 2 lithium batteries you always have a standby available.
  3. Adequate power–Handheld wireless diode lasers are useless without the power to perform a wide variety of procedures. The ilase has 3 watts of continuous power and the ability to provide pulsed power.
  4. Easy manipulated with LED screen–The laser should be easy to use. The display should be simple, yet provide the ability to change mode, power level, and access presets in easy steps.
  5. Disposable tips–Handheld diode lasers have disposable tips. These tips are easily placed on the laser—prestripped, premeasured, and ready to go. They can be easily changed, and specific tips for specific procedures are available.

When all these features come together, today’s techno-savvy dentist has the advantage of an efficient and easy-to-use tool.

Handheld wireless diode lasers can also be a great addition to your hygiene department. Diode lasers can be easily incorporated into soft-tissue management programs and can be utilized in the non-surgical aspect of treating periodontal disease. Because of their smaller size and ease of use, hygienists find the handheld diode lasers less intimidating than the larger tabletop or floor models. There is less hand fatigue, virtually no set-up time and they can add another treatment mode to the hygienist’s approach, thus helping to improve the oral health of patients. (Always check state guidelines as far as requirements for laser use by hygienists as they may vary from state to state. Certain certifications or training may be required prior to use.)

Diode lasers are quickly becoming standard equipment in the modern dental office. I believe these smaller diode lasers and the wireless handheld diode lasers make laser technology easier to incorporate into our dental practices.

A diode laser can be an efficient, easy-to-incorporate tool that any dentist or hygienist can utilize everyday to improve the level of care for their patients. By providing a wide range of applications and because of its smaller size, the ilase should become part of your tray setup for operative, crown & bridge, periodontal and, of course, soft-tissue surgical procedures.

As dental technologies continue to advance, and more of our everyday tools become smaller and wireless, our operatories will become less cluttered, our care more streamlined, and the term “No strings attached” could take on a whole new meaning in dentistry.