There are two classes of lasers used in dentistry today – ones that cut soft tissue and ones that cut hard tissue. The lasers use a single color (wavelength) of intense light to heat the target. This beam can be focused to an extremely tiny area thus allowing pinpoint accuracy. As it cuts, it will coagulate blood vessels to minimize bleeding and will sterilize the cut surface. The soft tissue laser can be used to reshape gums for a better cosmetic contour and can be used to remove growths in the mouth. Lower intensity lasers can be used to detect cavities in their earliest stages before they can be detected on x-rays or visually. Hard tissue lasers will actually cut tooth structure. If the cavity is not too deep, it may be possible to prepare the cavity and remove the decay without the use of local anesthetic, a big plus for all of the needle-phobics. The heat of the laser can also seal the freshly cut dentinal tubules, the tiny, microscopic pores in the inner layer of a tooth. This can help reduce post-operative sensitivity. For many people, just the thought of not having a drill and scalpel is a great way to ease the tension and anxiety surrounding dental treatment.
Most tooth extractions heal uneventfully, however, recovery can be greatly complicated by the dreaded dry socket. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot that fills the socket becomes dislodged or never fully forms in the first place. It is important after a tooth extraction to leave the surgical site undisturbed so that the blood clot has a chance to mature. If one vigorously rinses their mouth out or puts negative pressure in their mouth by doing things like sucking through a straw or drawing in cigarette smoke, the blood clot can easily come out. The result is a hole in the gums – hence the term “dry socket”. Another big factor is smoking. The nicotine will constrict blood vessels making it difficult for a proper blood clot to form, Making one more susceptible to a dry socket.
When a dry socket does occur, you will know it. After three to four days following the extraction, an intense pain will occur. There will be no redness or swelling, like with an infection. You can try to control the pain with an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, but it is best to call your dentist. Although a dry socket is not life threatening, it still is extremely painful and your dentist can help relieve the pain. Plus, it would be good that the dentist can rule out more serious problems. If it is a dry socket, then the dentist will flush out the debris from the socket, then place a medicated packing in the area for one week to ten days. The dry socket should be healed by that time and the packing can be removed.