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Local periodontist uses water laser in his practice

New technology eases recovery time in many dental procedures

For dental patients, the whine of the drill or sight of the scalpel is sometimes worse than the procedure itself. Young and old alike often cringe when these crude devices descend toward their vulnerable chompers.

But at the Western Avenue periodontal practice of Dr. Reed Ference, many patients get a relative treat in a new piece of equipment: a Waterlase system that negates the need for metal to even touch the gums.

Things have really changed since I got out of my program in '87, said Ference. "The last 15 to 20 years have been revolutionary."

As a periodontist, Dr. Ference uses the Waterlase system primarily to cut, but it can also be used as a drill in other disciplines. Though one would imagine it's the laser doing the work, in actuality the laser energy is focusing and propelling a water feed. When concentrated, the water acts like a super-sharp, ultra-precise knife.

The system is capable of making extremely accurate cuts down to 0.2 mm in width, but still packs enough power to slice through bone. Additionally, the laser energy can be turned up to provide heat to the area, quickly cauterizing incisions and killing bacteria.

All this not only makes for a quicker recovery time, but for a faster procedure.

It's also less painful, so the need for anesthetics is lessened when compared to scalpel-driven surgeries. The reaction is different because of the precision, said Demetri Ballas, of the Waterlase maker Biolase.

"It's so gentle on the body that the body doesn't think it's being injured," he said. "When you're using lasers to cut soft tissue there's no swelling."

Ballas said it's unusual for a periodontist to purchase a Waterlase system, partly because of its cost and partly because it makes expensive surgeries less necessary.

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