Use of Laser Technology to Manage Dental Fear and Anxiety

Studies demonstrate that the primary reasons why adults do not seek out dental help is because of their fear of going to the dentist, which could be associated with an unfortunate incident when they were a child. Dr. Samuel Low discusses the use of dental lasers to reduce the patient’s fear of going to the dentist.

Samuel B. Low, D.D.S., M.S., M.Ed., is the Vice President, Dental and Clinical Affairs, and Chief Dental Officer of BIOLASE. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, College of Dentistry and Associate faculty member of the Pankey Institute, with 30 years of private practice experience in periodontics, lasers and implant placement. He is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and past President of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Transcript

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for

joining us here on Health Professional Radio for this Health Supplier Segment. I’m in conversation with Dr. Samuel Low, he’s Vice President and Chief Dental Officer at Biolase and he’s going to talk with us today about reducing  patient fear and anxiety of going to the dentist and also about some of the capabilities that many of us may not have known about. Welcome to the program Doctor.

Dr Samuel Low: Thank you Neal.

Neal: Well tell us a bit about yourself other than vice president and the CDO at Biolase.

Dr Low:  I have a background in dental academics, University of Florida College of Dentistry. I was at some point an Associate Dean there and also practice periodontics still through some laser periodontics there. And for the most part, I’ve been utilizing lasers in my practice for the last 13 years and utilizing the technology for several reasons and primarily is the acceptance of Dentistry by patients and the reduction of the anxiety.

Neal: Well let’s talk about that anxiety. There are studies that show upwards of about sixty percent of adults do have this anxiety. What is it about your practice, what do you do to relieve some of that anxiety and I guess build a trust in your patients?

Dr Low: When you look at the spectrum of dental patients and you look at the life cycle, it literally begins almost at 18 months when we consider that parents should be bringing their children in. So I treat an entire spectrum from children that are 5, 6, 7 years old all the way through patients that are – I’ve actually treated a patient that was 105 years old. And when you think about the primary reason why adults stay away from dentists, we would like to think it’s only just about the cost but literally it is about the fear of going to the dentist whether it be real or worthy a perception and that comes with pain and anxiety. The studies demonstrate that the primary reason that adults do not seek out a dentist is an unfortunate incident when they were a child having dentistry. And therefore whether it be the numbing, whether it be an extraction or what have you. So we have this interesting responsibility as dental professionals to ensure that the initial experiences that a child has in a dental office is going to be very, very positive and so therefore by using certain technologies as laser, if they do have decay or cavities, we’re able to manage that with laser dentistry instead of using the drill. And so as we introduce this, we hope we know that when dentists begin to use – including pediatric dentists – begin to use laser technology, then there is an excellent possibility that we’re going to have good samaritans who are going to enjoy going to the dentist and then interesting there will be an increase in compliance.

Neal: Sometimes when you when you think of a laser, you think of something that’s hot, something that’s invasive, something that’s going to be burning these things off of your teeth or your cavities. How does this laser technology work? I mean drilling and blowing and things of that nature seem to take the calcium I guess off of the teeth or plaque. How do lasers do that? Does it burn? Is it invasive?

Dr Low: Neal, that is when when you mentioned laser depending upon the generation. Lasers take on different connotations. If you mentioned laser to a Baby Boomer, they think of Star Wars and they think of defense systems and they think of James Bond because lasers are considered to be heat generated types of devices. If you look at Millennials, they consider our lasers as  aser light and more of a positive direction. But your point is very well taken, lasers can be thermal however the lasers that we are talking about in dentistry at this particular wavelength literally generates no heat whatsoever. It works off of utilizing water and actually the materials within the teeth themselves. You mentioned the calcium aspect of it, these lasers seek out … and therefore when they see the tar they literally do like micro implosions. So tiny that the patient doesn’t perceive it whatsoever and so there’s very little, if any, when you when you have a dental drill, high-speed drill, the shrill of it, but also the vibration of it resonates through the entire body and because the drill is actually physically touching the tooth to remove the decay. The kind of lasers that we are talking about is lasers that have actually do not even touch the tooth. So Neal when we talk about lasers to the patient at the very beginning, they’ll say “What is a laser? Are you literally say it is light?” It’s organized light and if you look at medicine now, medicine is utilizing lasers much more. Let’s think about such things as lens correction. We all know the brand name Lasix and the reason that Lasix has moved so quickly into our society as lens correction is because you’re not using a physical blade to do this lens correction. You’re literally taking light and so as this light begins to move through whatever tissue we want to work with, there’s also a secondary aspect of that and that is just vaporization. So literally, we are removing decay, managing cavities by vaporizing the target and therefore decreasing all the stimuli that occur with the drill and including there’s a lot of talk right now about managing the autistic patient. And as you know their stimuli, they are heightened to a very to significant stimuli so we’re now looking at actually introducing a laser dentistry into the autistic child.

Neal: So we’re talking about reducing the need for any type of opioid or pain relief after the procedure. Is that is that correct? Is there no pain or very little painting with these lasers?

Dr Low: Very good point. So when we talk about pain is their pain during the procedure and pain after the procedure that you were referring to. When we do procedures relative to restorative procedures where we’re talking literally about the decay aspect that we were referring to with the drill, a significant number of patients including most children, we do not give anesthesia. We do not give numbing when we do restorations for them. That decreases the time, that decreases the ability to have to overtly manage them. Again as we talk about the autistic children, 20 to 30 percent of autistic children must be physically restrained when doing dentistry and that’s primarily because of the numbing. But you’re mentioning the pain after the procedure and that’s really when you get into it like things like gum surgery and extractions and things of this nature. But with gum surgery, because the laser is able to actually do some type of healing and sealing blood vessels as it’s working, there’s no bleeding whatsoever and so there is minimal discomfort. So for the opioid crisis, all of our laser patients, I would say at least 99% of our laser patients – they’re given ibuprofen. They’re given over-the-counter medications. I don’t ever recall using an opioid prescription type of pain for laser patient is in my 13 years of using laser. And so that’s the other, to decrease this crisis of where the both medical and dental profession is relying on prescriptive pain relieving medications. That’s not necessary when one uses a laser.

Neal: Where do we go online, get some more information about Biolase?

Dr Low:  For Biolase and this is a question that I’m asked constantly, because once a patient begins to appreciate that they can have the oral healthcare with this type of technology –  the first thing they say is “Where can I go our?” Biolase has a website, biolase.com and if you go on to biolase.com there is actually a section for the patient and if you go into that section, you will see a significant number of oral health practitioners, dentists, periodontist, orthodontists who have embraced laser technology. And you can go by zip code or by city and if you enter that information in, you will quickly find all of the dentists in your area that now utilize laser technology in managing dental care.

Neal: Dr. Samuel Low, thank you so much for joining us here on the program today for this Health Supplier Segment.

Dr Low: Thank you Neal, I appreciate it having me.

Neal: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio for this Health Supplier Segment. I’m your host Neal Howard, in conversation with Dr. Samuel Low. Transcripts and audio of the program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud and be sure to visit our Affiliate Page at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au

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