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The Hygienist's Role • Laser-assisted peridontial therapy

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Laser-Assisted Periodontal Therapy

Mary Lynn Smith, R.D.H.

Periodontal management visits can be a dreaded appointment. You're listening to your patient's description of an awful taste and now a particular tooth hurts when chewing. As you recline the chair, you hold your breath and hope the pockets haven't gotten deeper and the bleeding sites haven't increased. The examination, however, confirms that another tooth is lost to periodontal disease.

Conventional periodontal treatments, unfortunately, only buy a little time. This extended time is only effective when extensive home care regimens are completed.

I hated telling my patients they weren't getting better knowing they were spending 30 minutes or more every day ridding themselves of plaque. Worse, I could tell that some threw in the towel and decided it didn't matter what they did at home. Their infection increased.

Today, we have something better: lasers> With soft tissue lasers we can provide modulation therapy by decontaminating the pocket to such an extend that the body can actually quit fighting itself and begin to rebuild. Together with root debridement procedures, the laser is giving us results to feel good about. I see characteristics indicating healthy tissue more consistently than with conventional methods. Tissue is coral pink, stippled, with sharp, not rolled, margins.

To see just how good the results were, I launched an informal study of patients who had received periodontal root debridement treatment. I began by comparing the data from the comprehensive periodontal evaluation collected at each visit: total bleeding sites, 4 mm+ pockets, and number of teeth affected with disease.

The comparison of these categories before and after laser-assisted therapy was astonishing. I found 60 percent less bleeding, 74 percent pocket reduction, and 61 percent fewer teeth affected with disease. This consistent improvement through laser-assisted therapy has been exciting for both our patients and our overall practice. Patients know they are getting better and want to come back for their periodontal management visits. They no longer have the hopeless feeling that surgery, with weeks of discomfort and tooth sensitivity, is required to save their teeth.

Because current research has found that periodontal disease impacts the whole body, being able to help my patients achieve and maintain better overall health makes going to work something to look forward to. I want to make sure every person who shows signs of periodontal infection has the option of the best treatment available. Laser-assisted periodontal therapy is proving to be just that—the best treatment.

(This article was originally published in Aesthetic Dentistry, Winter 2005 issue.)

Mary Lynn Smith, R.D.H. is a member of the ADHA, Kansas DHA, International Congress of Oral Implantology, and the Academy of Laser Dentistry. She has over ten years of dental experience as a hygienist. Mary Lynn works for Dr. Jon Julian in McPherson, Kansas.

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