Buyers Waver on Lasers' Superiority
Michael D. Wheeler, Associate News Editor
When the Federal Food and Drug Administration allowed Premier Laser Systems Inc. in Irvine, Calif., to market the first laser for hard-tissue applications last year, many in the industry hailed it as a monumental advance. Problems soon surfaced with the lifetime of the optical fiber light-delivery system, and acceptance has been slow. In addition, researchers have been refining a rival technique called micro air abrasion, which costs less than laser technology.
Dentists express fewer reservations about Nd:YAG and diode lasers for treating periodontal disease. Because the laser cuts and also stops patients' bleeding, it provides dentists with a relatively bloodless surgical site, thereby increasing visibility of the surgical site and reducing the risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases.
Estimates about future market penetration of lasers must consider a number of factors: ease of use, cost, reliability and patient comfort. The estimated 1 to 3 percent of the nation's dentists who use lasers also tend to be their most vocal proponents. To attract other dentists, costs will have to decrease.