What’s in a Treatment? The Differences Between Laser Treatments for Gum Disease

Picture it: You’re settling into your dentist’s chair for an appointment. It’s probably been too long since your last visit. After the hygienist and doctor work on you, you get the news: you have advanced gum disease. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill gingivitis; it’s been slowly destroying the bone around your teeth and you’re going to have to have surgery to correct it before it wreaks havoc on your mouth and the rest of your health, as well.

Once the initial dread wears off, you ponder the next steps. Your doctor tells you standard options: do nothing and lose your teeth; have “deep cleanings” to try to manage the disease; have traditional osseous surgery; or have a laser treatment. While most patients would agree that they prefer anything over invasive, painful cut-and-sew surgery, what are the differences between laser treatments for gum disease?

It’s true, patients have their share of options when choosing a laser dental procedure. Only one laser gum disease treatment, though, has proof that it can achieve True Periodontal Regeneration — stopping disease progression and regenerating the bone and tissue already destroyed by disease. That laser treatment is the LANAP® protocol, using Millennium Dental Technologies’ PerioLase® MVP-7™ dental laser.

Different lasers do different things

The bottom line is there are differences between laser treatments for gum disease. Dental lasers come in many different wavelengths with different operating parameters, and each specific wavelength interacts with the human body differently. Some lasers can cut tissue, some lasers can cut bone, some lasers can’t do either. It all comes down to the specific wavelength. Unfortunately, the differences between dental lasers and tissue interactions are not taught in most dental schools.

One other company has latched onto Millennium Dental’s FDA clearance for True Regeneration and claims its laser treatment can get the same results as the LANAP protocol. Such FDA clearances are called “me too” clearances, or an FDA clearance for an existing indication for use. The FDA does not require the same standard of proof of safety and effectiveness that a “me too” device can achieve the same results, only that it is a similar device that claims to do the same thing – without requiring new clinical evidence. The other company with True Regeneration clearance has not presented scientific evidence to the FDA to prove regeneration has occurred, while Millennium Dental was required to, and provided 40 pages of new research, including two human histological studies to prove its new indication for use claim of True Regeneration. The FDA’s policy assumes that similar lasers can regenerate bone because the PerioLase MVP-7 dental laser has proven it can regenerate bone when following the LANAP protocol. Yet, we know different dental lasers interact with the human body differently – so how can all laser treatments for gum disease be equally effective?

So what does it all mean?

The key difference in Millennium Dental’s FDA clearance for True Regeneration is that it contains the phrase “when used specifically in the LANAP protocol,” meaning that all of the data and studies that were supplied to achieve clearance of the new clinical outcome of True Regeneration use one specific laser treatment – the LANAP protocol. Only the LANAP protocol has the scientific evidence demonstrating regeneration of bone and tissues. Every doctor who purchases a PerioLase MVP-7 dental laser to perform the LANAP protocol must take rigorous, mandatory training to ensure they are clinically calibrated to perform the LANAP protocol. This mandatory training takes place over 12 months. Dentists who say they are performing the LANAP protocol but who have not had the proper training have been fined by dental boards for not practicing to the LANAP standard of care. On the other hand, many other dental laser procedures do not require hands-on training and procedures are rarely if ever taught in traditional dental school settings.

When analyzing the key differences between laser treatments for gum disease, make sure you’re asking the right questions:

  • Is your dentist a LANAP-trained clinician?
  • If not, can s/he refer you to one? (You can also find a LANAP clinician in your area on your own.)
  • Is the dentist using a PerioLase MVP-7 (Nd:YAG) dental laser? Be advised that although other lasers claim the same results, they have not been proven to do so.
  • Is having a “cheaper” treatment that is far less likely to be successful worth the price of unsuccessful results or potential damage?

The choice is yours, but be aware that not all laser treatments are created equally.

Recap

  • Millennium Dental’s FDA clearance for True Regeneration was based on 40 pages of scientific evidence that was carefully scrutinized.
  • After Millennium Dental received the clearance in 2016, one other laser company received a “me too” clearance, which was not subjected to the same level of scrutiny or evidence.
  • Critically, Millennium Dental’s True Regeneration clearance contains the phrase “when used specifically in the LANAP protocol” — meaning no other laser treatment protocol has been shown to achieve the same results of bone and tissue regrowth.
  • Other laser companies may claim they can achieve True Regeneration, but their lack of research speaks for itself.