Update from the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) 2018, Orlando, Florida

I’ve just returned from ALD in the US and it was a great meeting!


This year the Academy of Laser Dentistry had their 25th Anniversary conference in Orlando, Florida. (The theme park capital of the world!) So did I get to go to Disneyworld or Universal Studios? Not a chance. There were things to do and people to meet.

And I got to meet up with some of the best and brightest minds from across the world.

The themes of this year’s ALD were Airway and Photobiomodulation. That was perfect because those were two of the three topics that I was going to be talking about.

The airway is one of the most important structures of the body. A few minutes without air and we are done for. As dentists we need to recognize that we can help ensure that the jaws and mouth grow properly to ensure the airway is as clear and patent as possible. However, as we age the structures at the back of the throat elongate and sag, and as we put on weight the airway also becomes constricted because of the fat deposits around the neck. This combination can limit the airway during the day but especially at night! Lasers can help rejuvenate and tighten the structures at the back of the throat. It can help people with snoring and sleep related breathing disorders.

Photobiomodulation (PBM) or low-level laser therapy as it used to be called is the most under-utilised aspect of lasers in dentistry. Despite really great studies on its benefits it hasn’t really taken off because of the specific way that you have to apply the laser energy to the injury or region. PBM can be used to help heal injuries, let teeth move more quickly and reduce pain and inflammation. It is currently the best-known treatment for neck pain and oral mucositis (ulcers caused by radiotherapy).

One of the keynote speakers was Eva Grayzel, who is a 20-year oral cancer survivor. And they don’t use the term ‘survivor’ loosely. She recounted the horrific time that she went through having surgery and treatment. She would literally have her face strapped down while she was having cancer radiotherapy. Having come out the other side she decided to create a program that helps dentists to detect the early signs of cancer around mouth and neck. You can read more about it at: https://www.sixstepscreening.org. An amazing speaker who was both moving and motivating, she really brought back the human element.

Immediately following was a talk on the use of PBM for the treatment for mucositis. This is the worst part of the treatment and can be so bad that patients would rather forgo radiotherapy than have to suffer through the huge painful sores that form in their mouth and down their throat!

Laser treatment has dramatically reduced the appearance of ulcers to the point where sometimes they don’t even form! And treatment is available to many more cancer patients as a result of these machines becoming available in more cancer departments of more hospitals around the US.

Thankfully in Australia, one of the best machines for this kind of treatment is available in Wahroonga, Sydney at The SAN (Sydney Adventist Hospital). As awareness of this form of treatment becomes more well known, the quality of life of cancer patients will greatly improve.

The following day was an entertaining talk by a laser oral surgeon that discussed the importance of the airway to health and how it relates to sleep related breathing disorders. He explained how as the airway narrows, the air has to travel faster through the throat and creates a region of negative pressure that can cause the airway to collapse. Some pretty gruesome surgical techniques were shown that tightened and stiffened the soft palate, as well as resective procedures that involved the complete removal of the uvula and part of the soft palate or the base of the tongue.

I followed that showing how lasers can now help tighten and shrink those areas without the need for GA, invasive surgery or down time. A relatively short 20-min procedure that helps to make sleeping more comfortable for many people.

The third day I spoke on a new type of handpiece combined with a laser wavelength not well known for PBM. This special laser combination allows dentists to simply hold the laser over the area that needs treatment. No need to move the laser around or hold it a specific distance away. It couldn’t be simpler! It shouldn’t be a surprise that I use this handpiece almost every day in my practice.

The general talk on lasers covered all the new procedures that can be done with lasers. I showed everything from fillings, to trimming back gums, treating gum disease, root canal treatments, teeth whitening, facial aesthetics and snoring treatments. Many dentists were just not aware of the new advances in laser technology that makes the procedures so much quicker to perform, more comfortable for the patient and with very reliable.

All in all it was a very successful meeting and I met some of the giants in the profession.

And if you’re interested in learning more about what lasers can do, I’m excited to announce my next series of talks coming this month! Find more info- including how to book- on my media hub.



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