LANAP - Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure

New technology is at the heart of how the dental landscape is changing and developing. Scientists and technologists are working closely with the dental community to create new products and treatments that generate visible evolutions in the quality of patient care, the speed of treatment and the precision of work that dentists can deliver.

One of the most significant advances in dental work over recent years has been the introduction of laser technology. Innovations in laser technology have been developed for a long time. But it is arguably only in recent years that those innovations have been shaped into commercially viable products that make a real difference to patients and practices.

In this article, we will look more closely at a procedure named Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure – or LANAP for short. LANAP is a technology that has been developed in California specifically to treat a condition known as periodontitis.

What is LANAP?

The key to LANAP technology is a specially developed laser known as the PerioLase MVP-7. Used at the right wavelength by a trained periodontist, the LANAP laser is able to tackle and treat periodontitis without removing significant amounts of tissue.

LANAP is an approved form of treatment that is used successfully around the world. However, to understand more about LANAP and how it is revolutionising certain types of dental treatment, we first need to understand more about periodontitis. What is periodontitis? And why is it such a serious dental issue?

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a form of gum disease. It is estimated that most adults have some form of gum disease, even if it is only a mild case. However, there are many issues such as lifestyle, diet and oral hygiene that contribute to gum disease, aggravate it and cause the gums to deteriorate at a much faster rate than is normal.

The periodontium is the name given to the gum tissue that lies around the teeth and supports them. Without this gum tissue, the teeth can start to feel loose. Periodontitis, therefore, is the type of gum disease, caused by bacteria that attacks these areas of the gum and causes them to become inflamed and, ultimately, recede. Once the gums recede, the bacteria goes on to attack the bone around the teeth. If periodontitis is not treated, then the bone structure around the teeth will degrade and the teeth will eventually fall out. As mentioned above, periodontitis can be accelerated by lifestyle issues, particularly smoking and drinking too much alcohol. There is also some evidence to suggest that chronic periodontitis is an inherited condition.

What is the traditional treatment for chronic periodontitis?

In many cases, periodontitis can be slowed through a good oral hygiene routine. However, is cases of chronic periodontitis, brushing and flossing will not remove the problem. This is because, as the bacteria eat away at the periodontal gum tissue, pockets form around the roots of the teeth where the bacteria accumulate. This makes it impossible for the toothbrush to clean the bacteria away.

Once these pockets have formed and filled with plaque, calculus and bacteria, professional dental treatment is required. If the pockets are still fairly shallow, the debris may be able to be removed by scaling and then the teeth smoothed by root planing. This can cause the patient some discomfort. However, once the procedure is complete and the pockets around the teeth have been cleaned, the gums will naturally grow back around the teeth and hopefully remain healthy.

In some cases of chronic periodontitis, the pockets are too deep for scaling to be effective in removing all of the debris. On these occasions, the only solution is periodontal surgery. By reshaping the gums and the teeth, the dentist can remove the affected areas and ensure that the gums are easier to clean in the future.

What does the LANAP treatment involve?

Therefore, once periodontal gum disease has set in, patients can usually only look forward to a fairly painful treatment that involves scrapping away the plaque and reshaping the gums. With the development of LANAP technology, however, patients now have a choice.

The Periolase laser operates at a very specific wavelength so that it preserves healthy gum tissue and destroys unhealthy tissue. Traditional scaling techniques involve removing part of the gum to reach the pockets, then reshaping the gum tissue that is left. With LANAP technology, therefore, less of the healthy gum is lost as the laser concentrates only on the disease gum tissue.

The LANAP procedure is most easily divided into four main stages. First of all, the dentist uses a specially designed probe to understand how deep the pockets of diseases tissue are. Secondly, the Periolase laser removes the diseases tissue and also kills the bacteria. In the third stage, the dentist will usually use hand tools to remove debris from around the roots of the teeth. Finally, the dentist will use the laser to clean the pocket one final time and at the same time, to close the gums so that bacteria can no longer accumulate in the open pockets.

What are the advantages of LANAP?

The LANAP procedure is a much less invasive procedure than traditional scaling and root planing. By this we mean that it causes the patient far less discomfort. In fact, the patient feels no pain during the procedure and there is no need for a local anaesthetic. One of the great plus-points of the laser technique is that, as well as killing the bacteria, the heat from the laser also seals up the gums as it works. So there is also much less bleeding than with conventional approaches.

There is also an aesthetic improvement with the LANAP technique. As less of the gum is removed and more of the healthy tissue is saved, the height of the gums is not reduced. Often, after traditional scaling and root planing, the patient can feel self-conscious because so much more of the teeth are showing. This is much less of an issue with patients who undergo the LANAP procedure.

Finally, there is one remaining advantage for patients who choose LANAP: they save time. Nobody likes to have to keep on returning to the dentist chair for painful procedures or to have to spend days on end recovering. LANAP means that the patient suffers much less in the dental chair and has a much shorter recovery time.

Is LANAP widely available?

The number of LANAP-certified dentists is growing in the UK and the popularity of the treatment is growing among patients. LANAP is also a treatment where much research is still being done and the technology is still being advanced in many different ways. As this work continues, the treatment will undoubtedly become even more popular and even more widespread in the not too distant future.