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Solea's impact on chair time and revenue

Nov. 24, 2014
Dr. David Fantarella explains how the Solea laser from Convergent Dental has helped him to grow the size of his practice, increase his revenue, and improve his patients' experiences.
Research from the American Dental Association confirms what we’ve all been dreading: dentists’ revenues are down significantly. This trend started during the mid-2000s, and as of right now, little change is in sight. I’m happy to say that my practice has bucked the trend. With roughly 70 new patients per month, my practice’s revenue is up by 40% this year. Next year, I am planning to double the size of my office. All of this growth has been driven by the addition of a single piece of technology that I added to my armamentarium a little over a year ago: Solea from Convergent Dental.

Solea is the first CO2 laser to have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for usage on both hard and soft tissue. I have been drawn to lasers since I majored in physics during college. I began using them in my practice for both hard and soft tissue in 2008.

Prior to this unique 9.3-micron CO2 laser, I used an erbium laser but was discouraged by its lack of speed and inconsistent analgesic effect. Erbium lasers operate at less than 3 microns and are not efficiently absorbed in hydroxyapatite. They penetrate deep into the tooth structure with each pulse and vaporize water, which chips the enamel away as it expands. This is an inefficient and slow process, which results in irregular margins.

Solea operates on an entirely different principle. Its unique 9.3-micron wavelength is highly absorbed in both hydroxyapatite and water, which vaporizes tooth structure directly with speed, precision, and an analgesic effect that is both profound and reliable. With this laser, I perform more than 98% of my operative dentistry without anesthesia with significantly less chair time than I did with a drill.

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In addition to the advantages that its unique wavelength enables, Solea leverages the power of computer technology to optimize the delivery of laser energy to the tooth. Within the handpiece, small mirrors are driven by galvanometers, tiny motors that move up to 10,000 times per second. Their movement is synchronized with the super-pulsed laser – pulsing up to 10,000 times per second – to emit patterns of light that have a profound effect on speed, precision, and patient sensation for hard or soft tissue procedures. All of this is invisible to me, of course. The simple user interface just asks me to specify tissue type and spot size, and the computer does the rest as soon as I step on the foot pedal.

Solea’s variable speed foot pedal is the first of its kind in laser dentistry. It allows me to change cutting speed on the fly without looking up from what I am doing — another layer of efficiency. The combination of wavelength, computer controls, and intuitive interface make Solea the best all-tissue dental laser I’ve ever used and the most valuable tool in my operatory.

I use Solea on virtually every patient, every day. I use it for cavity preps, inlays, onlays, and amalgam and composite removal. While I don’t use it for crown preps yet, I use it for crown lengthenings, troughing, gingivectomies, and every other soft-tissue procedure you can name — all of which are anesthesia and blood-free. Speaking of crown preps, how often does a patient come in for a crown and have a filling that needs to be done in another quadrant? With Solea, I don’t have to numb the other quadrant in order to take care of the other tooth while the crown is milling. It only takes a few minutes and saves another appointment slot. If you are a crown-and-bridge dentist, that’s like finding money. There are very few cases during which Solea cannot be used or add value.

As you have probably already figured out, the efficiency comes from reliably eliminating anesthesia and bleeding. 99% of the procedures I do are anesthesia-free with Solea, as compared to about 40% with an erbium laser. If your procedures aren’t anesthesia-free nearly 100% of the time, having a dental laser isn’t really making you more efficient. Why? When you use erbium, you can’t predict which patient will need anesthesia, so you numb everyone. Once you do eliminate anesthesia and bleeding, you save a ton of time. You don’t lose time by injecting patients and waiting for them to get numb. I routinely work in multiple quadrants and fill cavities after hygiene visits because it only takes a few minutes. My typical subgingival class V takes six minutes of total chair time because I am not numbing or dealing with blood. I use the laser on the soft and hard tissues, restore the tooth, and send the patient on his/her way. I also take on fibromas, polyps, frenectomies, and other soft tissue procedures, which I previously would have referred out, because they are quick, easy, and lucrative with Solea. All of this adds up to about eight procedures more per day than I could do with either an erbium laser or a drill.

Let’s not forget the patient. For all of the good things that I have to say about Solea, my patients say even more. They love the lack of noise, lack of vibration, lack of needle, and the fact that I can send them back into the world without any of the drooling, cheek biting, or soreness normally associated with anesthesia. They also like getting more done in fewer visits. For all of these reasons, Solea also makes my patients more talkative. They brag about their dental experience to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers, both in person and on Facebook. Those word-of-mouth referrals play a huge role in the amount of new patients I get per month.

Solea is a truly revolutionary dental instrument that has added tremendous value to my practice. Dentists looking to improve production and patient experience will not be disappointed with this new piece of technology.

David Fantarella, DMD, has been in practice as a general dentist in Hamden and North Haven, Connecticut, for 16 years. He specializes in general, implant, cosmetic, and laser dentistry.