The mere thought of a visit to the dentist’s induces terror in most people.
Dental care experts in the city are now experimenting with pain-free, no-blood options that make root-canal treatment and filling of dental cavities bearable.
A small group of dentists in the city has embraced laser treatment, which does away with the need for dental anaesthesia and the patient does not need to make multiple trips to the clinic.
Last month, Chennai hosted an international conference on laser dentistry. A two-day workshop and hands-on training was offered to dentists. The organising secretary of the conference, Premila Suganthan, who says she has been using the technique for five years now, calls it an upcoming field, a skill that must be developed. At the conference, 25 dentists received hands-on training on the new machines.
“Lasers can be used on children, pregnant women and senior citizens and it provides safe and harmless treatment. Dental treatments are no more about pain and vibrations,” she says.
Trained dentists say the technique adds to efficiency and precision in cutting tissue. Yashwanth K. Venkataraman, convenor, Indian Academy of Laser Dentistry, says the city has the largest concentration of doctors using the new technique.
“With 30 to 40 laser machines, Chennai has the largest concentration of such clinics. Mumbai, in contrast, has just about 20 to 30 machines,” he says.
Dentists say most patients undergoing root-canal treatment are not given dental injections, making the procedure extremely painful. But laser does the job using light, making the cutting of tissues painless and bloodless. The treatment, however, is 30 to 40 per cent costlier than conventional methods.
M.B. Aswath Narayanan, State nodal officer for public dental health, says it will be awhile before laser treatment is introduced in government hospitals.
Dr. Aswath says, “If we introduce expensive techniques, the facility will become out-of-bounds for ordinary people.” The added disadvantage is that dental procedures are not covered by health insurance unless they are the result of an accident.
A research at Government Dental College has found the conventional method of applying topical fluoride sealant for pits and fissures in teeth is good enough to prevent food particle deposits.
It is a good way of preventing tooth decay, says Dr. Aswath. When such inexpensive methods can be adopted, as a public health expert, he cannot advise expensive procedures to his patients, he says.