Can Lasers Make Your Orthodontic Treatment Faster?


My orthodontist just scheduled me for a laser procedure. He said it will make my treatment time shorter. What the heck? How are lasers used in orthodontics and how can they help me get my braces off quicker?

Laser use is common in medicine and dentistry
Lasers are used for many applications in medicine and dentistry. Some are designed for hard tissues like teeth and bone. Others are used only on soft tissues. Those most useful in orthodontics are soft tissue lasers. There are at least five reasons why the orthodontist you choose should use a laser.

Lasers can be used to treat canker sores
The first reason is that lasers can help orthodontic patients to feel more comfortable when they have a canker sore or other ulceration adjacent to their braces. By keeping the laser at a distance from the lesion, the energy is absorbed but the tissue is not cut. The effect is that the sore is desensitized and healing is accelerated.

Lasers can be used to reshape normal tissues
The second reason your orthodontist should use a laser involves the removal of naturally occurring structures that affect the position of your teeth and gums. Muscle attachments known as frena are found between the lips and gums. Some are too long and extend between the teeth creating spaces or recession. Lasers can be used to shorten these attachments to allow space closure as well as to prevent recession. This procedure is known as a frenectomy.

Lasers can be used to remove swollen tissues
Another reason for lasers in orthodontics involves the removal of swollen tissue. This extra tissue develops as a consequence of poor oral hygiene. Not only does it look bad, it also grows over the enamel and makes future plaque removal even more difficult. Your orthodontist can remove your swollen gums allowing better access to the underlying enamel.

Lasers can be used to improve shape and appearance of gums
The fourth use of lasers can take place before, during, or after orthodontic treatment. It is gingival contouring (reshaping) to improve the esthetic appearance of the anterior teeth. It is not uncommon for the level of the gums overlying previously crooked teeth to be uneven after alignment. An orthodontist can quickly improve the appearance of your smile by using his laser to even out the height of your gums and reshape the gingival contours.

Lasers can be used to expose unerupted teeth
A fifth use of lasers in orthodontics is the one that actually shortens treatment time. In order for your orthodontist to move your teeth, he must be able to attach braces to each one. There are many times when the surface of the tooth is either fully or partially covered with gum tissue. This may be because the tooth is impacted, or it may be because the tooth just hasn’t come in all the way. For whatever reason, using a laser to remove tissue so that a bracket can be placed early can save six months to a year of waiting. That can substantially shorten your treatment.

Other advantages of using lasers during orthodontic treatment
Laser treatment is quick and easy. Most tissue is thin and can normally be desensitized with topical anesthetic alone. Because the laser seals as it reshapes the gums, there is little change of bleeding, swelling, shrinkage, or infection. Discomfort is similar to a cold sore and it lasts only a day or so. Another advantage of going to an orthodontist that uses lasers is that you won’t have to go to another office to have your soft tissue procedures performed. Not only will this save you money, it will also save you time as you will not have to delay your treatment until after you get in to see another doctor. Orthodontists who use lasers can get your treatment done quicker with better results.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.