New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger
There are plenty of reasons not to get too comfortable in the dentist's chair, but there is a machine could change all that.
"We're going to start off doing a little gum treatment here," Dentist Stephen Ballard says to one of his patients. "We don't have to use any anesthetic."
Ballard can say that to many of his patients now that he owns a Waterlase laser. It shoots air and water out in front of a beam of light that makes the water droplets explode and spin fast enough to cut both soft and hard tissue. Right now, he's using it to scrape the tartar and plaque from this patient's root surfaces.
"It flushes out the bacteria and all the bad tissue, all the buildup along the roots of the tooth, and the healing is just amazing," says Dr. Ballard.
Turn up the wattage and Dr. Ballard can now use the laser to cut into the tooth for a filling. No pinch of the needle, the water acts as an anesthetic. And forget the drill, the laser is powerful enough to cut through bone, if needed.
The Waterlase is precise, too. It only works within a millimeter of its target, lessening the chance of a misfire. The only drawback is it doesn't work on metal, so those old silver fillings have to be taken out by traditional means before the laser can help replace them with tooth-colored resin.
"No pain at all," says Bill Jones. "You're aware of the fact that something is being done, but there's no pain at all."
And that's exactly why Dr. Ballard invested $50,000 into the Waterlase laser; to put his patients at ease and hopefully attract the less courageous ones who've stayed away from the dentist for far too long.
If you're prone to cold sores, the Waterlase laser can help. Dr. Ballard says the hydrokinetic energy changes the composition of the sore. It turns white and heals within two days. He says he'd charge about $75 for that.