With so many dental lasers on the market today and so many sales representatives telling you that theirs is the best, it’s hard to know which laser to buy. Hygienists typically use several different kinds of lasers, so there are key points to consider prior to making a purchase for your practice.
Most dental offices place diode lasers in the hands of dental hygienists. This is usually because diode lasers are small, lightweight, and portable. Since the investment is less than for other types of lasers, this can be a big benefit for dental offices needing to purchase lasers for multiple hygiene operatories.
Read more about lasers in this series …
Implementing your first laser
When implementing your first laser into the practice, your hygiene team may need to share their only laser. This affects patient scheduling to make sure you don’t double-book your laser. The laser also needs to be portable, which may mean having the laser on a cart with wheels and drawers to store accessories, such as the foot pedal, safety glasses, laser tips, and tools for stripping and cleaving fibers.
Dental hygienists often want me to suggest to their doctors that they need a laser in each operatory for convenience. While that is ideal, you first need to make sure you’ll actually use the laser. You must show your doctor that you want to be a laser hygienist and that you’ll use the laser daily.
Dental laser choices
As you look at the various diode lasers available, some may seem like old dinosaurs. But the best part is that diodes last “forever,” so it’s OK to use one that doesn’t look too pretty. I promise very few patients will ever come into your operatory and tell you how beautiful your laser is.
I’ve listed the lasers below in alphabetical order. If you have a diode laser that works, then that’s a good laser to have. Check with the manufacturers about pricing, deals, and sales, and don’t forget to ask about the prices for fibers, laser tips, and safety glasses replacements.
There are three AMD/CAO lasers to choose from: Picasso, Picasso Lite, and Clario. Picasso is primarily used by dentists, although hygienists can use it as well. The other two are used more by hygienists. These lasers have suggested settings for use and disposable tips that you must purchase.
Beamer (STL Beamer)
The Beamer is a laser that can be used by dentists and hygienists. It’s light and portable and designed to tolerate falling off a counter (hygienists can be dangerous!). This laser has a fiber spool, and you’ll need to strip and cleave the fiber.
Biolase is a well-known brand with lasers for doctors and hygienists: Epic X, Epic 10, and Epic Hygiene. These lasers have presets as suggested settings and require disposable tips. One of these lasers also comes with a photobiomodulation attachment and a whitening wand. Hygienists can use any of these lasers.
The NV Pro3 is a pen-style laser with a battery attached to it. These lasers are easily transported between treatment rooms and have disposable tips. The lasers are sometimes harder to use on patients’ back molars since the handle is bigger, so take that into consideration. This is a great laser dentists can use for tissue recontouring.
The Pioneer laser is similar to the older Ivoclar Odyssey laser. It has a spool-type fiber that you need to strip and cleave, but it’s solid and dependable. This laser can be used by dentists and hygienists.
This laser has two wavelengths that can be used together, and there are two units to choose from. Attachments can be added to the laser for photobiomodulation. The laser has an illumination light for extra brightness during use, and it has disposable tips.
There are several other laser units to consider, but these are the ones that I am asked about the most. Please remember that I don’t work for any of these laser companies, but I do presentations for most of them. There are bells and whistles that I like and dislike about each of them, so my best advice is try them out before buying.
Strip and cleave. When you strip and cleave, you cut the plastic off around the laser’s fiber (which is there to protect the glass fiber). Then, you use another tool to cut off the end that has been in the patient’s mouth. Some salespeople say this takes too long, but practice makes it easy. Even if stripping and cleaving takes you longer, remember that the fiber spools are usually cheaper.
Disposable laser tips. Many lasers use disposable tips. But the tips are one-time use only—even if used on the same patient. After one use, disposable tips can start breaking down, which causes them not to work as well. The tips usually cost $5–$9 per tip.
Suggested settings. Many lasers have presets in their suggested settings. These settings give you a starting point as you begin the laser procedure. However, keep in mind that one setting is not good for every patient. You must look at the chromophore of the tissue to get the correct setting, otherwise you can easily begin to cut tissue (which is out of the scope of practice for hygienists). Keep in mind that every laser can cut tissue based on the chromophores.
Nd:YAG and CO2 lasers. Hygienists can use these lasers as well, but they are a larger investment in the hygiene department.
In a nutshell, you get what you pay for with lasers, so choose one you know you’ll use. You don’t want to have a laser just sitting on a shelf somewhere.