Sound waves make dental surgery painless

LOS ANGELES A drill, scalpel and a needle are three reasons Nancy Lemos was dreaded dental surgery. Periodontal disease caused bone and gum tissue to separate from her tooth.

"When I think of surgery, it's like anything else, I think of cutting and I think of bleeding," said Nancy Lemons, who had Piezosurgery.

But none of those would be part of Nancy's surgery because her cosmetic dentist used a new procedure called Piezosurgery.

"It was just so quick, it didn't seem possible," said Lemos.

The new device uses sound waves to cut through bone -- 60,000 cycles per second. The high frequency vibrations work so fast, there's no bleeding or pain.

"Just as an opera singer will sing and crack glass, this is like the opera singer for surgery and it can crack your bone without any pain, without any discomfort, without any bleeding," said Dr. Joseph Kravitz of the Center for Dental Health.

The device comes in very handy when operating in the sinuses. It makes it much easier to get in there. How the technology is used often depends on where the doctor thinks it's needed.

The sound waves are programmed to cut bone, without hurting soft tissue, nerves or vessels.

"This technology makes total logical sense and there's nothing that even comes close to it," said Dr. Kravitz.

Nancy is amazed her procedure only took five minutes.

"Why put yourself through anything else? This is easy," said Lemos.

She went home pain free.

"I'm glad it's done," said Lemos.

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Traditional surgical procedures for periodontal disease, severe cavities and other dental conditions involves scalpels, risk of nerve damage and post-operative pain. The best way to avoid surgery is to prevent these dental conditions. Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth.

It causes the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down. The first stage of periodontal disease is termed gingivitis, and it is a milder and reversible form of the disease that only affects the gums.

This first stage may lead to more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease known as periodontitis. Cavities, another condition that may require dental surgery, are the breakdown of tooth enamel caused ultimately by eating sugars and starches.

When a person eats these types of foods, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth, and eventually they break down the enamel and cause a cavity to form. Left untreated, a cavity can destroy your tooth and kill the nerves at its center, which may result in an abscess. An abscess is an area of infection at the root tip that can only be treated through a root canal, surgery or tooth extraction. Both periodontal disease and cavities can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene.


According to Joseph Kravitz, D.D.S., a prosthodontist at the Center for Dental Health in Washington, D.C., traditional dental surgery is an invasive procedure. "When you do bone or sinus surgery traditionally, is what you have to do is take a scalpel and you cut the gums open, peel them back, so you can see the bone," he told Ivanhoe. The surgery also carries risks. "There's lots of discomfort. There is more chance of infection because it's more invasive, and the patient's face will swell and sometimes there is bruising with that technique."


A new noninvasive procedure is offering an alternative for patients who cringe at the thought of the dentist's office. Piezosurgery is a device that uses 60-thousand-per-second sound waves to cut through dental bone to treat problems associated with periodontal disease and cavities, to aid in dental implant surgery, and to assist with other surgeries like crown lengthening, bone grafts and sinus lifts.

It works so quickly, no bleeding or pain is involved. "Through the sound waves, you can program the tool to only cut bone, or only cut a tooth structure, or only cut different tissues in the body," Dr. Kravitz explained. "Based upon the frequency of the wave of the sound, it's selective on the density of the tissue."

The instrument received FDA approval for oral procedures in 2005. According to the Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Piezosurgery offers several advantages over traditional bone surgery. First, the entry cut is more precise. Second, the cut is safer because the ultrasonic frequency used does not cut soft tissue. Third, the cutting action is less invasive, which results in better healing. "This is one of the best things that dentistry has had come out," Dr. Kravitz said.


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