SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - The practice of using lasers in medicine has grown steadily over the past decades. This is especially true in dentistry where it is changing the care available to patients for the better.
Carla Bucchare, of Belleville, has a long family history of early tooth loss in both her mother and grandmother. She told Local 4 she was afraid of following in their footsteps.
"I don't want to wear dentures. I'm following my mom's advice, keep your teeth as long as you can," said Bucchare.
But even with reasonable care Bucchare still ran into trouble.
"My teeth were good, it was my gums that let me down," said Bucchare.
Ultimately her general dentist referred her to Dr. Joseph Nemeth, a Southfield periodontist.
Periodontists are dentists with special training to care for diseases of the gums and surrounding bone.
When she was first referred 10 years ago, Bucchare's situation was severe enough she needed traditional gum surgery to save her teeth.
"The recovery was a long time and the sensitivity to hot and cold was bad and it was hard to eat," said Bucchare.
After the surgery she was told she needed to pay attention to her gums for the rest of her life.
Bucchare admitted she didn't always do that.
"A couple years after I had the surgery I might have slacked off a little bit," said Bucchare.
With the return of her gum problems, Bucchare sought Dr. Nemeth for treatment again.
Fortunately, according to Nemeth times have changed.
"Dental lasers are a revolution in dentistry and in periodontal treatment," said Nemeth.
His was the first periodontal practice in Michigan to use lasers when they became available.
"We've had a huge variety of lasers and a huge number of varying experiences with lasers," said Nemeth.
A powerful pinpoint laser beam can be used to vaporize tissue.
"If you're using it for cutting it cuts the tissue but it seals the nerve endings and seals the tissue in such a way that you don't have bleeding surfaces and often therefore you don't need sutures or stitches," said Nemeth.
There are additional far more elegant uses for this advanced technology. By selecting the type of laser and the wavelength of light, you can chose what you are cutting or removing.
Some lasers like the Millennium PerioLase can essentially be set to only affect diseased areas. Which means the laser glides over other areas without damage.
In your mouth, the effect is only diseased gums and bacteria are destroyed, leaving teeth and normal gums untouched.
This ability has given rise to the laser assisted new attachment procedure or LANAP for short.
This is how it works:
A super fine laser tip is slid between the teeth and gums. Laser energy targets the darker bacteria and unhealthy gum surface. Next any hard plaque on the tooth surface is removed. Then the laser is slipped in again, this time to sterilize the bottom of the space between the tooth and gum, known as the pocket. A blood clot is left behind as a natural bandage allowing the area to heal and re-attach from the bottom up.
Bucchare has had both the traditional and the new LANAP procedure. Her preference is the laser treatment.
"With the laser, it's fantastic," said Bucchare.
"My own feeling is virtually all cases of periodontal disease from mild to moderate and especially advanced can be treated to some degree with the laser," said Nemeth.
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