Kim Donnellan used to dread visits to her general dentist — Dr. Bill Busch, in North Kansas City, Missouri — though she had been a loyal patient for 10 years. She would become anxious about the thought of an anesthetic shot and the numbness she would soon experience afterward. “I couldn’t even drink my coffee,” she says.
That changed when she came in to see Dr. Busch about a cavity earlier this year. Instead of a dental drill, he used a device called the Solea® all-tissue laser, which he introduced to his practice in May 2021. Many patients prefer this type of non-contact CO2 laser, which can vaporize enamel and soft tissue using a 9.3 µm wavelength, because it is less intimidating than a drill. It looks like a laser pointer and is very quiet. “Patients aren’t afraid because the noise is very, very minimal,” says Dr. Busch.
For Ms. Donnellan, the doctor’s use of the laser transformed the experience of going to the dentist. “The thought that I didn’t have to worry about needles, or the rest of the procedure, was fantastic,” she says.
Many of Dr. Busch’s patients have had similar reactions to the Solea all-tissue laser, as he shared during his recent webinar, “Comprehensive Blueprint: Adding New Procedures and Patients with Solea.” Their positive experiences with the procedure have led them to recommend his practice to other patients, including some high-profile ones.
Among these high-profile patients is Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. Although the football player was “deathly afraid” of going to the dentist, according to Dr. Busch, he was able to get treatment for dental caries without any anesthesia. He later received treatment for snoring with Solea® Sleep, a five-minute, non-invasive laser therapy that tightens the collagen fibers of the soft palate tissue in a single application, providing rapid relief to those who experience snoring.
A new solution for general dentists
Dr. Busch uses Solea when working with both hard and soft tissues. He finds it cuts quickly and efficiently, resulting in minimal bleeding. When there is more tissue to cut, he simply controls the tip of the laser with its software, resulting in a wider beam.
For most patients in his practice, Dr. Busch has also discovered it virtually eliminates the need for anesthesia, as evidenced in Mr. Edwards-Helaire’s case. Solea relies on a powerful 9.3 μm beam that is optimized by computer-controlled motors. The motors control mirrors inside the handpiece that direct the beam into a pattern of pulses on the target tissue. By optimizing energy delivery for the tissue being cut, including enamel, dentin, bone or soft tissue, the process allows dentists to perform reliably anesthesia-free dentistry — helping to reduce anxiety and discomfort, and ultimately transform the patient experience. Since it saves time, as Dr. Busch no longer has to inject patients with an anesthetic and wait for it to take effect, he often finds it allows him to tackle procedures that once stretched over several visits into one same-day visit, offering a time savings of 75%. In addition, it has proven to be cost-effective, helping him purchase less anesthesia overall.
Most useful applications of the laser
There are several procedures where Dr. Busch uses Solea, including:
- Removing old amalgams: The laser has an analgesic effect on the chamber, eliminating the need for an anesthetic shot in all but the most sensitive patients. The key is to aim the laser light on the tooth and around the amalgam for about a minute. The beam should not be aimed directly on the tooth, because it can cause a reflection that impacts the dentist’s view, he says.
- Snoring and sleep apnea. Dr. Busch has been able to use it in the Solea Sleep treatment, which requires a separate handpiece, to help people who snore get rid of the “slapping” sound that results from this condition. The treatment involves a remodeling of the collagen in the soft palate that tightens the area and lifts it to create an adequate-sized airway. He uses an app called SnoreLab to create a baseline for their snoring. Typically, it takes about a week for the Solea Sleep treatment to bring results. He estimates it is about 80 to 85% effective. Herb Hamilton, one of Dr. Busch’s patients, snored for years, and was waking up his wife, Anita, with the noise every night. He didn’t tell his wife he got the procedure, but instead, asked her the day after if he had snored the night before. “Now that you mention it, you didn’t wake me up once,” she told him. Mr. Hamilton says, “The therapy changed my life.” Dr. Busch also uses the Solea all-tissue laser for patients with sleep apnea, in conjunction with an oral appliance. However, he notes it does not cure sleep apnea completely.
- Frenectomies, crown lengthening and other soft tissue biopsies. Frenectomies are a procedure in which a baby’s lingual frenum is cut to improve the child’s ability to move his or her tongue and, as a result, to breastfeed or speak. When doing frenectomies, Dr. Busch has used Solea on babies as young as two days old, in conjunction with a small amount of anesthetic spray. When it comes to crown lengthening, Dr. Busch has found that it is possible to use the laser to perform them so quickly and efficiently that he can create a final crown restoration during the initial visit and temporarily cement it. Then he applies the final cement six weeks later to create the crown restoration.
- Cutting through enamel and dentin. Working with Solea has sped these procedures for Dr. Busch, allowing him to divide a visit into four short segments, rather than six.
- Removal of fibromas. Dr. Busch has found that the laser is helpful in removing freckles and other imperfections from the gums of many patients.
Improved COVID-19 protocols
During the era of COVID-19, the Solea all-tissue laser has brought other benefits. For instance, it has fewer revolutions per minute and lower air pressure than a dental drill, so it allows for a 97% reduction in aerosols that might spread viruses — and reduces splatter — giving patients concerned about the potential for transmission of the virus more peace of mind. The lack of an aerosol spray also means there is less need for personal protective equipment, which results in cost savings.
At a time of social distancing, using Solea also allows dentists to save space, because it sits on a cart. “It doesn’t really take up a big footprint,” says Dr. Busch.
When bacteria is left in the tooth and gets stuck there after a procedure, patients may experience discomfort. Dentists typically scrub the tooth to get rid of the bacteria when they cement the restorations. Using the laser allows dentists to cut and remove decay and fill the restorative form, killing bacteria. This can be particularly helpful when there is a lot of tooth decay, and a worry about exposure of the pulp to bacteria. In those situations, Dr. Busch sterilizes the area using the laser, which is pain-free for the patient.
Although an all-tissue laser requires an upfront investment, many dentists ultimately find that this tool saves them considerable time and money and is a powerful draw for new patients. As dentists rebuild practices not quite recovered from the pandemic, the Solea all-tissue laser can be a valuable addition to their toolkit that makes painless, reliably anesthesia-free dentistry accessible to more patients — especially if dentists tout them in their marketing materials.
To learn more about the Solea all-tissue laser, visit https://pages.henryscheindigital.com/soleaexperience2021.