By Danny Chan
“There is never a day when the laser is not used.” That seems to be a common refrain of dentists that I’ve interviewed for this series, following their experience with the Fotona Lightwalker and graduation from the Masters of Laser Dentistry from Laser & Health Academy (LA&HA) Institute – the latter being the main subject of these interviews.
Dr Philip Hand is yet another interviewee (and LA&HA graduate) to highlight the ubiquity of laser use in their practice. Along with Dr David Marriott, Philip is the Owner and Practice Principal at Marriott and Hand, a 30-year partnership in their clinic located in Airport West, Victoria.
While careful not to overstate the importance of the dental laser, being “another tool in (his) armamentarium for dentistry”, Dr Hand is unambiguous when explaining how the technology has shaped his approach to patient care and treatment: “It is profoundly effective in endodontics, periodontics, surgery and conservative dentistry.”
The Fotona Lightwalker, which he owns, simplifies once cumbersome – even impossible – tasks:
- Ability to perform conservative dentistry (fillings) without local anaesthetic: “A profoundly positive practice builder”.
- Cleansing of the entire canal system in endodontic treatment: “Exciting!”
- Crown lengthening with a closed flap technique in periodontics: “I still find it remarkable”.
- Biomodulation or Low Level Laser Therapy: “Something that I use a lot with muscular pain, any surgical site and treatment of herpetic lesions or apthous ulcers”.
- Dramatically reduces pain, swelling and healing times for patients. “Something that we all strive for.”
“All these advances,” the Practice Principal summarises, “help to build trust within the patient community of a practice.”
Dr Hand purchased his first laser – an AMD Picasso Lite Diode Laser – over 10 years ago. Having used the laser mostly for soft tissue applications, he was suitably intrigued when an old classmate and dental colleague, Dr Terry Rose, shared passionately about the versatile applications of the Fotona Lightwalker. Two and a half years ago, Dr Hand was convinced enough to attend a one-day informational course on the product and since purchasing the machine shortly after, he hasn’t looked back. To get the most out of the “amazing piece of equipment”, he further enrolled for the LA&HA course, which he claims, “taught me an enormous amount and makes me strive to know more.” He has since applied to complete an M.Sc in Laser Dentistry in Rome at the Univerista Cattolica del Sacro Cuore.
If the Fotona laser helped to broaden Dr Hand’s repertoire of treatment modes, the Master’s course lifted a veil on the unlimited possibilities of laser dentistry.
“The course opened my eyes to so much more that we can do in dentistry particularly in the fields of better endodontic and periodontal treatment as well as treating snoring.”
He reveals how the laser lectures have introduced advanced methods of relieving painful periodontal and mucogingival conditions, TMJ and myofascial pain conditions”, in addition to utilising an Er:YAG laser to “truly clean” an implant surface as well as minimally invasive method of removing porcelain veneers and crowns without having to cut them off.
Organised by Fotona, manufacturer of the Lightwalker laser, the LA&HA Masters program features world-renowned Laser educators who teach and mentor the students. The 5-module program covers Laser Physics, Conservative and Endodontic practice and Surgery – including a research-based or intensive clinical practise module with one of the teaching mentors.
Last year, Dr Hand completed the one-year course, which at the time was held in various countries including Finland, Slovenia and Rome. Thanks to higher Aussie demand – and influence of Paul Baltas, Managing Director of local Fotona distributor, Innovative Medical Technologies – the latest cohort of Australian students get to attend the course in our own backyard. In fact, Dr Hand returned as an educator for a series of LA&HA training workshops held in Melbourne.
Dr Hand’s zeal for sharing the latest laser techniques with other enthusiasts can be gleaned from an exacting attention to details during his live patient treatment presentation and also his impassioned exchanges with course attendees during the lunch break.
“I love teaching. When one is passionate about the topic, it is anything but a chore,” Dr Hand enthuses, “To be at the forefront of a technology at such a momentous juncture in my profession is exciting and invigorating.”
At the training venue, you quickly sense camaraderie among lecturers and attendees, some of whom are visitors from countries like China and Japan. Reminiscent of when techno geeks gather at an Apple conference, the laser enthusiasts emanate the kind of vibe that can only come from a shared bond and genuine interest for the subject matter.
One informal tie that binds members of the “Fotona Family” – using Dr Hand’s affectionate term for the company’s growing yet tightly knit user community – stem from having to constantly defend a shared conviction against laser detractors.
Lamenting the misconception of many in his profession, that lasers only cut and remove tissue, Dr Hand says the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of the technology is a lack of education.
“(Non-laser users) do not understand the extraordinary range of modes of treatment available to the profession from lasers. We can tighten soft tissue, heal tissue, reduce inflammation and greatly reduce pain for our patients. This is not simply cutting away tissue – which we can do with great efficiency – but it is only one of the things we do.”
“There is widespread scepticism that needs to be broken down. We are inherently a conservative profession so I know that this will be a slow process.”
Dr Hand is one of several LA&HA graduates who find themselves curiously drawn to a laser-lit pathway, honing their skills and knowhow simultaneously as student, educator and proponent of laser dentistry. The Master’s course has been an important gateway throughout this discovery process.
“Through the Masters Course I have met like-minded, open, innovative and energised clinicians from around the world. They love to share their dental knowledge and enthusiasm for the profession and treating our patients.”
“That is why I find the Fotona family’s enthusiasm for laser technology and our community not only true but expressed from the heart.”