Big Practice in a Small Town

Lasers Expand Dental Services, Increase Patient Base

In 1993, Dr. Janet Rice began using lasers for crown and bridge, cosmetic dentistry, implants and surgery. She has since purchased OpusDent’s Opus10, Opus20 and OpusDuo systems, and now maintains a thriving practice in Bristol, Tennessee, USA, which serves patients from four states. President of the international Academy of Laser Dentistry,
Dr. Rice lectures and writes widely, and with husband Dr. John Rice, US Director of Education for OpusDent, cares for her 14 horses, including one thoroughbred stallion. 

Q. How have lasers improved your practice?

A. Lasers helped me find my niche in cosmetic dentistry. They have made my surgeries more efficient, and my patients immediately saw the benefits. Lasers have enabled me to grow my patient base by expanding the services I perform – and to deliver these services ten times faster than with conventional methods.

Q. What procedures do you perform with lasers?

A. Every day in my crown and bridge work, I perform ‘laser sulcular development’, a term I coined for what was called ‘troughing”. After tooth preparations that extend below the gum line, I use the laser to seal blood vessels and nerve endings, eliminating puffy gums, so crowns look better, and smiles are clean, sharp and perfect. Lasers also enable me to cosmetically sculpt gum tissue or remove diseased tissue.

I now am able to remove pathology from patients’ lips, tongues and cheeks. For example, lasers can easily remove ‘venous lakes’ – blood blisters on the lip. I also remove fibromas, lipomas and common warts. Once, these procedures required stitches and caused scarring. With lasers, stitches are not needed and there is little or no scarring. Often, when patients return for photos, it’s hard to see where the procedure was performed.

I do hard tissue procedures with the erbium laser. Most procedures are on older patients with receding gums and worn dentition, either at the root surface or biting surface. I use the laser to lightly prepare the worn area for retention of composite fillings. This does not require numbing or drilling, and patients love it. It gives them a younger smile.

Also, with the laser I can uncover implants without a second full flap surgery.This gives a more aesthetic final appearance and healthier gingival seal around the implant post. I could never achieve this with a blade and stitches. The gum just doesn’t grow back smoothly around the implant. And implant survival is all about the biologic seal around the post.  I don’t even pick up a surgical blade for this any more.

Q. How have you added the dental spa concept to your practice?

To give my office the feeling of a spa, I put in a waterfall, painted the walls in soft pastels, and decided to play tranquil music and use aromatherapy. During treatment, patients look up at a sky view and afterwards, they receive hot cloths to freshen up. These little extras make people want to come to the dentist. I plan to incorporate IPL™ for hair removal and Skin Treatments using Photorejuvenation. Many patients are already asking about these procedures – they can’t wait.

Q. Do you have any messages you’d like to share with other dentists?

A. Do your homework and be prepared. Before buying each laser, I read everything I could on that laser, attended meetings and courses, talked to people, and asked questions. Get the proper education you need before attempting any procedures. And get it now. Laser dentistry has caught on, and is going to have a huge impact on your business. The wave is cresting. You want to be ready to ride it in.