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Lasers lead the way to dentistry without hated drill

by Garland M Baker on August 17, 2009

For most people, going to the dentist is reason alone to have nightmares for several nights before sitting on that dreadful chair and getting tortured by the infamous chilling drill. Having a traumatic experience at the dentist has almost become a rite of passage during childhood for thousands of people. Fortunately, technology is now transforming the painful and horrific aspect of dentistry into a painless and actually pleasant experience for patients around the world, including Costa Rica.

Laser dentistry has been available in the U.S. for some years, and plenty of clinics offer laser treatments. Laser technology is used to treat both hard (tooth) and soft (gum) tissues. It can treat most problems related to dental health, and it is the main tool used for cosmetic procedures.

There are many laser treatments available for teeth and gums. The following, based on extensive interviews and seminars, are some of the most common.

Common soft tissue laser procedures

Periodontal surgery: Lasers are mostly recommended for performing a great variety of periodontal surgeries since they are minimally invasive, produce virtually no pain, bleeding or swelling, eliminate the need of stitches and recovery takes a fraction of the time it takes with normal surgery.

Bacterial infections: Lasers are excellent tools to treat and prevent bacterial gum infections since they can reach deep along the tooth root to kill accumulated bacteria in the gums.

Gummy smile correction: Lasers can trim extensive gums to expose teeth structure and improve smile appearance.

Common hard tissue laser procedures

Cavity detection: There is a special low-intensity laser used specifically to detect the presence of cavities in teeth.

Tooth preparation and fillings: Laser procedures eliminate the need for anesthetic injections and the traditional drill. In addition, the laser rays kill the bacteria inside the cavity, which prolongs the sealing effect of the filling and prevents future formations of cavities in the same places. However, lasers cannot be used to replace amalgam fillings, inlays or crowns.

Sensitivity: Lasers are used to seal the tubules responsive to hot and cold sensations located on the root of the tooth.

Bleaching: Teeth can get up to 10 shades lighter in one painless laser session. The real laser bleaching procedure does not include a laser lamp or painful gel applications that over-sensitize the teeth.

Being afraid of the dentist is a reality for most Ticos and expats since many dentists in Costa Rica have been reluctant to acquire and offer the latest technology to their patients and continue using the dreaded drill, injections and other painful traditional tools.

Some dentists think that investing in laser equipment is too complicated and expensive. Others feel that because laser treatments are more expensive, their patients may still prefer traditional treatments. And others feel that they should work with the equipment and technology they learned to use in school. Whatever the reason, dental technology has not easily permeated the Costa Rican health market, and patients continue suffering. However, just as everything else in this country, change is coming slowly. A small group of dentists is changing the landscape of Costa Rican dental health.

Dental laser technology was distributed to Costa Rica by Biolase – the main laser provider for Central America and the Caribbean – approximately five years ago, when four dentists decided to explore its benefits in their practice.

The pioneers of laser treatments in the country are Ileana Campos and Jenny Mora, who were trained in Florida and San Diego, California, and are certified by the American Dental Association. They train local dentists in their clinic, and Dr. Campos has also conducted laser procedure workshops for dentists throughout Latin America. They use three kinds of laser machines: a) Waterlase (which they use to treat cavities, sensitivity and crowns), b) Laser Smile (for bleaching, periodontal surgery and pain treatment) and c) a special laser for cutting through gums for crown and bridge procedures.

Dr. Campos’ and Dr. Mora’s Clínica Dental de Especialidades is located between San Jose and Guadalupe, not far east of El Pueblo shopping plaza. The clinic does not currently have a Web site. They work by appointment Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Their phone numbers are 2222-6029, and 2221-4902, and their fax number is 2222-5817. The clinic does not currently own a Web Site.

Diana Rodriguez is the third dentist in Costa Rica to offer laser treatments in her clinic. Fully trained by U.S. Biolase experts and with plenty of experience, Dr. Rodriguez uses the Waterlase machine for treating cavities, tooth preparation for fillings, sensitivity, bone cutting, root canal procedures, periodontal bacterial treatments, a great variety of surgeries and cosmetic procedures as well.

In fact, all demonstrations and trainings conducted by Biolase experts for local Costa Rican dentists take place at Dr. Rodriguez’ clinic, Denti Lase, located in Tower 3 of the CIMA Hospital in Escazú. They work by appointment Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays from 8 am to 12 noon. Their phone numbers are 2208-8522 and 2208-8524, and they also have a Web Site.

Jorge Mendez is the fourth dentist who acquired laser technology for his clinic. Trained in New York, Ecuador, Mexico and San Diego and certified by the Chicago Dental Society and the American Dental Association, Mendez uses two types of machines, a) the cavity detector and b) Waterlase, which he uses for a variety of treatments, including cavities, crowns, bridges, cosmetic gum surgery, among other procedures. He also trains local dentists interested in using laser technology.

Dr. Mendez’ clinic, Cosmetic Dental Laser, is located in Rohrmoser. They work by appointment Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6:30 pm. Their phone number is 2296-6010, and they also have a Web Site, which is being updated and will be back to normal by next week.

On average, the cost of laser treatments is naturally more expensive than regular procedures, since the cost of the equipment is higher than traditional machines and the procedures are top quality. Prices can range at double what the regular dentistry treatments are. However, although more pricey, many customers will see the price difference as valuable and well worth it for comfort, fast recovery, fewer sessions and excellent results. In fact, patients should either stop going to traditional dentists or demand that their dentists upgrade their equipment.

Going to a dentist that still uses old equipment is like paying a lawyer that is still using a typewriter because he refuses to upgrade it to a computer. It is simply not worth one’s time or money.

In addition, recent studies have revealed that dental prevention is not only important for oral health but also for overall body health, since a variety of conditions can be detected by certain tooth or gum signs or can be even provoked by an excess of gum bacteria being absorbed into the blood stream. By eliminating the traumatizing factor of traditional dentistry, Ticos and expats can now sit comfortably on the dentist chair, worry only about preventing major conditions and forget about having nightmares before each dental appointment.

Dentists interested in learning about laser dental instruments and procedures should visit Biolase’s Web site and contact Dr. Haidy Vasquez – authorized sales representative for Biolase in Costa Rica – at 2458-1064 to arrange for a demonstration at the Denti Lase clinic located at CIMA Hospital.

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