(August 6, 2015)- If you’ve ever had a cavity, you’ve heard the dreaded shrill of the drill. Dr. Michael Errico says he sees his patients cringe, when he turns it on.
"The traditional drill with the air driven turbine is what you hear with that high pitch whine," says Dr. Errico, " Everybody gets a little anxious."
Dr. Errico maintains the traditional drill, but he also offers his patients an alternative: a laser that first numbs the tooth.
"This actually uses light energy, and what the light energy does is penetrate through the tooth structure. We use a little topical numbing cream around the gum tissue. Then we program the frequency that will be on the tooth, and then hold it there for a minute or two. That light energy at a certain frequency penetrates through to the nerve and confuses it," says Dr. Errico.
Once the nerve signal to the brain is scrambled, a change in frequency allows Dr. Errico to cut through the enamel.
"As we change the frequency, it sounds more like popcorn. And when you hear more popping, the energy is laying on the tooth longer and that's where you get the ablation, that's where we actually work the tooth structure. For children, it's fantastic. For that person that's anxious or has anxiety, they don't like the sound of the drill. It really makes them nervous and freaks them out, this is an alternative to it," says Dr. Errico.
Former boxer David Diaz opted for the gentler touch for a quick cavity fix.
"You hear a little bit, but it's not the dreadful kind," says Diaz.
"There's no vibration, there's no heat transfer, so it turns out to be less aggressive and less invasive for the patient and it is very comfortable," says Dr. Errico.
There are drawbacks. Lasers can’t be used on teeth with fillings already in place and lasers don’t eliminate the need for anesthesia. Lasers are also more expensive than traditional drills: $39,000.00 for a laser compared to $600.00 for a traditional drill.