Technological advancements in dentistry have reformed the sector, enabling dentists to provide better services to clients. The use of lasers in medicine has opened up more treatment opportunities, which are also non-invasive, thus increasing dental procedures’ efficiency.

Different lasers exist for application in the medical field to cure or manage different conditions. The most common lasers are used in surgery to facilitate non-invasive procedures, with reduced healing times.

Other lasers, such as cold lasers, provide low-level light that allows the body to improve tissue regeneration, thus facilitating the healing of oral tissues. At Northridge Dentist, we pride ourselves in embracing new technology to streamline our procedures and make treatment better for our clients.

We embrace technology backed by research and actual results to ensure that our clients get the best they can. We believe in change and making our dental practice more comfortable and efficient for our clients.

Overview of Cold Lasers

The sun is the universe's life force, passing on its energy to plants and animals alike, directly and indirectly. This energy does much more than warming us up or giving us a tan to brag about after a vacation. For example, the sun contributes to healthier bones by triggering vitamin D synthesis in the body.

In the past century, people understood the importance of sunlight in preventing conditions such as rickets, acne, and pain relief. Scientists are now tapping into this energy to provide healing solutions for problems that conventional medicine cannot resolve. Such conditions include festering wounds in diabetic patients.

The significance of light, particularly low-level light lasers, is their ability to benefit the body without the adverse side effects medication might bring.

The sun has a different light, visible, and invisible type, which can harm and benefit the body. For example, UV rays are harmful to the body, with the risk of causing cancer. Therefore, scientists have devised ways to separate the sun’s rays into individual lasers (forms of purified light). These lasers can then provide unique benefits based on the application.

The 20th century saw the development of the first lasers, which were primarily used for surgery. It was not until the 1960s when research into the therapeutic benefits of lasers was explored.

Dr. Mester first used lasers as a therapeutic tool in 1966. He conducted an experiment to determine the risk of low-level lasers in cancer, which turned out negative. From his experiment using laboratory mice, Dr. Mester learned that lasers could effectively trigger cells' regeneration, which improves the healing of wounds.

He used these lasers for wound healing for cases that remained unresolved through conventional therapies with a success rate of 85%.

Since then, research on the role of photobiomodulation has increased, leading to the development and advancement of laser technology for treatment across different medical fields, including dentistry.

Cold lasers, also known as low-level lasers, are small, usually self-contained handheld devices that either use batteries or are charged via a pod.

The laser uses infrared light, which has a deeper reach into the cells than the infrared light coming directly from the sun. The laser triggers both primary and secondary reactions from the cells and the body, thus increasing cold lasers' reach. For instance, acupuncturists can target an acupuncture point on the wrist to trigger a reaction on a distant part of the body.

Low-level lasers use light energy to trigger biological reactions from the body. When the light lands on the target tissue, it triggers various cell processes, thus stimulating them to release cellular energy. This energy serves a restorative function enabling the wounded cells to rebuild themselves, therefore heal wounds the patient has.

Light lasers have effectively treated diabetic ulcers, chronic back pain, tendon strains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and chronic wounds.

Dentists use lasers to cut the enamel or soft tissues during dental operations. Cold lasers expand the reach of dental procedures that can be made easier and more efficient using laser technology. They are used both in general and specialized dentistry for the following purposes:

  • To reduce pulpal pain
  • Stimulation of endorphins
  • Treatment of oral sores
  • Reduction of post-surgical pain, swelling, and inflammation
  • Stimulation of healing at an extraction site, which reduces the risk of developing a dry socket
  • To facilitate dental restoration procedures by reducing the pain associated with the procedure, it is comfortable for the patient.
  • These lasers help in reducing nausea and gag reflexes among sensitive patients who require dental procedures performed.
  • Cold lasers can stimulate the submandibular lymph nodes to increase flow to the affected area, thus stimulating faster healing of dental infections.
  • Studies suggest that using cold lasers during dental implant surgery can improve bone formation around the implant and reduce pain during and after the surgery.
  • Cold lasers are also effective at treating acute and chronic facial pain, which usually develops after long dental appointments. After these lengthy dental procedures, cold lasers often offer relief and reduce the possibility of developing trismus and joint pain.
  • Dentists also use cold laser therapy for people who develop dentin sensitivity after endodontic procedures.
  • Low-level laser therapy is also effective for treating cold sores, angular cheilitis, and herpes sores.

Cold laser therapy is an effective non-invasive treatment that utilizes the body's resources to facilitate healing and pain relief. Patients who experience pain during certain dental procedures can enjoy a less painful procedure upon applying cold laser therapy.

The significant difference between cold lasers and high-level lasers is in their action upon contact with the cells. Low-level lasers trigger photochemical reactions without producing heat; therefore, they do not damage the cells.

On the other hand, high-level lasers will trigger heat formation, usually with the effect of killing the targeted cells. Cold lasers are considered Class C lasers since the reactions they trigger are usually light and gradual. They have a power of less than 250 mW.

How Cold Lasers Work

Scientists have yet to establish the exact mechanism in which low light therapy works to trigger cells’ regeneration and heal wounds. However, scientists believe that these lasers’ effectiveness is based on an interaction of several factors, as discussed below.

When cold laser light is directed at a tissue, it becomes diffusely distributed, triggering speckle formation. Since the light falls on optically rough surfaces of the tissues, the reflected light forms secondary waves that intersect with each other, leading to these speckles' formation. 

The speckles create differences in temperature and pressure, facilitating further diffusion of the lasers across the cell membranes. The speckles create partially polarized areas from the highly polarized photons found in each speckle.

As these photons become absorbed, they trigger the production of singlet oxygen in the mitochondria, thus activating the respiratory chain. In addition to stimulating the respiratory chain, these speckles trigger the body’s immunity chain, causing it to release wound healing components.

Since the laser makes the cell membranes more permeable, it increases inflammatory activity, which facilitates the wound healing process.

The wound healing process follows the following steps after the injury of the affected process:

  • When you are injured, the surrounding blood vessels break and start bleeding out of the wound. However, they will constrict and restrict blood flow, following which the blood will clot, forming a seal on the wound. A fibrin mesh will also form on the clot, further reinforcing the sealing of the wound.
  • After this process, the body triggers an inflammatory reaction in the injured areas. This inflammation allows the movement of repair cells (white blood cells) to the wounded area and bacteria, damaged cells, and pathogens from the wounded area.
  • The third stage involves the rebuilding of damaged tissues and blood vessels. At this stage, the wound receives myofibroblasts, collagen, and extracellular matrix to facilitate the rebuilding of the damaged tissues.
  • Finally, the wound goes through the remodeling stage, where the wound closes. The unneeded tissues are eliminated, others reabsorbed to facilitate healing.

Light lasers facilitate the second stage of wound healing through trigger cell respiration and the inflammation response.

The cold laser also triggers the synthesis of endorphins and serotonin, thus producing a pain-killing effect by reducing the chemical that elicits pain in the body. Instead, the lasers trigger the release of endorphins, which naturally have a pain-relieving effect. 

Cold lasers also trigger the relaxation of smooth muscles, causing the blood vessels in these regions to dilate and increase blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow carries more immune cells, facilitating cell regeneration and wound healing. The use of cold laser therapy also facilitates lymph drainage, thus improving the body’s immune function.

In summary, cold lasers trigger:

  • Cell respiration
  • Release of cytokines and other growth factors
  • Conversion of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts (these facilitate tissue remodeling and wound healing)
  • Synthesis of collagen
  • The proliferation of macrophages (for immunity), lymphocytes, endothelial cells, and keratinocytes

Safety of Cold Laser

Cold lasers are a safe alternative medicine applicable to the treatment of various conditions. Unlike high-intensity lasers, cold lasers do not generate heat. Therefore, they pose no risk to healthy cells and the skin. 

Another concern you might have with lasers is the link between radiation and cancer, which is understandable. However, you might not know the effects of low, medium, and high-level radiation on the skin and the cells.

High-intensity radiation destroys cells, which makes it ideal for cancer treatment. Medium intensity radiation can also damage cells, but low-level lasers are strong enough to activate cell processes but too weak to damage them.

Laser manufacturers typically separate lights of different wavelengths and radiation to create a more focused and pure form of light. This means that cold lasers are specifically low-level light that lacks the potential to destroy healthy cells.

That said, these lasers cannot be used on cancerous cells since they can cause the growth of these cells. You might therefore want to discuss your health concerns with your dentist if you have a cancerous tumor.

Cold lasers work by stimulating natural cell regeneration and are healthier than some medications meant to trigger healing.

Cold laser therapy does not pose long-term side effects to patients. However, it should not be used on the eyes. Cold lasers should not be used over the following:

  • The thyroid
  • Tattoos
  • Malignant tumors
  • Eyes

Scientists have yet to establish whether cold lasers affect fetuses; therefore, pregnant women should not use cold lasers as a precaution.  People with epilepsy cannot use cold laser therapy since the light might trigger a seizure.

Other people who cannot use cold lasers include:

  • People with pacemakers
  • Patients with chest pains or arrhythmia
  • Patients with lupus

The FDA has approved cold lasers as an alternative or complementary therapy when used by a qualified practitioner or a doctor. While the American Dental Association has yet to approve of the lasers, it implies an optimism in adopting lasers as an integral part of dentistry.

Cold lasers are safe for use during a dental procedure. In some cases, it can help your dentist perform a procedure without the need for anesthesia (making low-level light therapy a great option for those allergic to anesthesia). Some procedures, however, will still require the use of anesthesia for the patient’s comfort.

Application of Cold Laser Therapy in Dentistry

Cold lasers have a significant place as an alternative treatment. They are effective at triggering the regeneration of cells without altering these cells or triggering allergic reactions.

Dentists have adopted the use of lasers for both soft and hard tissues in the oral cavity. The dental field’s major applications are for better wound healing, bone repair, remodeling, regeneration of neural cells after injury, reduction of pain, and modulation of the immune system.

Cold lasers use the visible and infrared spectrum to trigger tissue healing and reduce pain. When the laser irradiation is directed at wounded tissues, it triggers the production of singlet oxygen. This oxygen triggers RNA and DNA synthesis, thus facilitating the growth of new healthy cells (and wound healing).

While most dentists have not embraced the use of lasers in their practice, most are beginning to incorporate cold lasers in various applications to offer better disease control, eradication, pain relief, and restoration of the form or function of teeth.

Dentin hypersensitivity is a common problem for which dentists use cold laser therapy to resolve. Dentin hypersensitivity includes short and sharp pains from exposed parts of the dentist, through disease, heat, cold, or pressure.

The application of low-level laser therapy on the apex of the sensitive teeth can help block the transition of pain or sensitivity through the pulp nerves. Depending on the laser’s power, the treatment can last up to three months and is usually effective within the first treatment with a low-level laser of 830 nm.

Cold lasers for dentin hypersensitivity can preserve teeth vitality and reduce or eliminate the need for root canal therapy.

Dentists also use these lasers for the treatment of wounds and lesions in the oral cavity. In this case, they will apply the laser's optimum dosages on the affected area to trigger the wound healing cycle.

The cycle begins with the activation of cell respiration, triggering an inflammatory reaction, and activation of the immune system. Once these processes are underway, the tissues at the wounded site generate collagen fibers, which contribute to the strength of scar tissues.

Laser treatment is also successful in reducing pain and inflammation in patients suffering from temporomandibular joint pain. Cold lasers are ideal for treating this pain since they can easily penetrate the cheek without harming the healthy cells therein.

It is an ideal treatment option that takes about 120 minutes (broken into several sessions) to relieve the pain.

You can go through cold laser therapy as you work on solving the underlying issue that could be contributing to your pain, such as grinding your teeth.

Dentists also apply cold laser therapy after oral surgery to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. In such cases, the laser can be applied directly to the target area of applied through the cheeks, with similar results. The application of cold laser surgery after dental surgery can help speed the recovery time among patients.

Patients who receive treatment for chronic dental conditions typically experience pain following the dental procedure. The pain increases as the healing process begins and is usually uncomfortable for most patients. When resolved using cold lasers, such pain provides relief to the patient without the need for pharmaceutical medications.

Cold laser therapy is also ideal for the repair of damaged nerves. Dental procedures, particularly surgeries and endodontic procedures, typically cause nerve damage. Nerves take time to repair, which can be painful. Applying low-level lasers to the damaged nerve triggers the regeneration of these nerves.

Cold lasers also trigger an analgesic effect, which helps in dealing with chronic and acute pain conditions. It does this by decreasing histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine and increasing acetylcholine esterase. The change in the levels of these endorphins in the body increases drainage from the lymphatic system, and increases your pain threshold.  Acetylcholinesterase also supports wound healing.

Dentists also use cold lasers to accelerate anesthesia by improving blood circulation. The use of the laser on the site also makes it less painful for the patient when injected.

Most patients having root canal therapy and radiography experience nausea. Some dentists employ acupuncture to offer these patients relief. Cold lasers serve as an alternative to acupuncture needles using the laser on the acupuncture points on the patient's wrists.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cold Laser Therapy

Cold lasers are changing the medical field, including dentistry. However, they might have some disadvantages, which you could consider if you intend to use cold laser therapy.

Cold laser therapy is a non-invasive technology making it suitable for people who want shorter recovery time.

Cold lasers are also an alternative to conventional pain relieving medicines, thus removing the need to take medication  several times a day for pain relief.

When used in dentistry, these lasers can lower the pain a patient feels, thus reducing or eliminating the need for anesthesia. They also reduce bleeding and swelling during these procedures.

Another advantage of cold lasers in dentistry is that they reduce anxiety among patients, especially when used together with a dental drill.

However, cold lasers also have disadvantages, including:

  • Cold lasers typically require several sessions depending on the severity of the condition. This is particularly true for people seeking pain relief from conditions such as temporomandibular joint pain. You will need to return to your dentist two to four times every week for the treatment to last longer.
  • Cold laser therapy is not covered by insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid. While you can get medical insurance carriers who cover cold laser therapy costs, you will need to ask your insurance company whether they offer this coverage. If they do not, you will have to cover them yourself.
  • Cold laser therapy can be quite expensive compared to conventional medicines.
  • Cold lasers cannot be used on your teeth if you have silver fillings.
  • Cold lasers are also less effective for cavities between teeth, teeth with old fillings, or when preparing teeth for a dental bridge.
  • Cold lasers are also not effective in shaping, adjusting, or polishing completed fillings.

Find a Cold Laser Dentist Near Me

Most dentists are yet to embrace the use of cold laser therapy in their treatment despite the research and studies that point to these lasers’ safety and efficiency in medicine.

However, cold lasers are convenient, accessible, and comfortable for dentists and patients, drastically improving the quality of service that patients get. These lasers are effective for soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity and the temporomandibular joint.

Northridge Dentist prides itself on being a practice that embraces safe and effective technologies to enhance our customer experience.

Call us at 818-875-0216 if you have any questions about the effectiveness of cold lasers for your oral health problems. We will provide an individualized assessment based on your needs and preferences.