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The Laser-Systemic Connection: A Physician’s Perspective

I was recently invited to give the keynote address at the upcoming annual meeting of the Academy of Laser dentistry. Why? Because this year’s theme is the “Laser Systemic Connection: Lighting the Way to a Healthier Mouth and Body”, and they thought I would be a good fit.

Although flattered, I had to agree given my focus on bridging the oral-systemic gap and my specialty of heart attack, stroke and dementia prevention. But until I did some research, I wasn’t aware of all the ways that dental laser technology can have a positive impact on a patient’s systemic health.

I already knew about how lasers can be used to halt periodontal disease, which any AAOSH member knows is linked to a slew of systemic conditions. In fact, for many years, I’ve been referring some of my patients to one of the nation’s leading practitioners of the LANAP procedure – especially when they are medically-compromised with pre-existing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or arthritis.

Laser technology is also effective “preventive medicine” for my patients who are genetically predisposed to developing the aforementioned systemic conditions, as well as Alzheimer’s, disease, certain types of cancers, low birth weight babies and rheumatoid arthritis.

But dental lasers are much more versatile and provide so many more opportunities for dental- medical collaboration than periodontal therapy alone. For example, here are some examples that will be covered in depth during ALD 2019 in April:

  • Sleep Obstructive Breathing (Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes, Dementia)
  • Pediatric Tethered Oral Tissues A.K.A Tongue and Lip Ties – Linked to nutritional deficiencies, developmental disorders, impaired speech and self-esteem issues
  • Tissue Healing and Pain Reduction via Photobiomodulation (PBM) – A Viable Alternative to opioids

Regarding the last bullet point, my eyes were recently opened on the efficacy of PBM when one of my patients was being ravaged by chemo therapy-induced oral mucositis.  All the oncologist was offering was a mouth rinse to take the edge off the pain.

I referred the patient to PBM expert and incoming ALD president Dr. Mel Burchman, who practices 15 miles from my office.  My patient describes the laser treatment results as “life changing“.

Now, thanks to my recommendation, my patient is able to continue treatment and a very prominent Philadelphia oncologist has another tool in his holster for this common complication of chemotherapy.

The result is that we are slowly but surely furthering the grass root efforts of educating the medical population that we should be referring to dental specialists just as we do other medical specialists – and lasers can be another catalyst for this progress.

I believe an AAOSH member who has invested in laser equipment, and been properly trained in the latest applications, will have a great influence on the oral-systemic movement. I hope to see some of my AAOSH friends at the ALD Annual Meeting, April 4-6th in Dallas, Texas.

About the Author

Charles Whitney, M.D. is double board certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and completed his family practice residency at David Grant USAF Medical Center. He served as a physician in the United States Air Force before joining the University of Pennsylvania Health System, where he established his Concierge medical practice, Revolutionary Health Services, in 2003.

A leading national advocate of bridging the “oral-systemic gap” between dentistry and medicine, Dr. Whitney has been published in leading print and online dental trade journals, including Dentistry TodayDentaltownJournal of Cosmetic Dentistry, DentistryIQ.com and Dentalcompare.com. He also authored a four-part online CE course “A Comprehensive Review of Vascular Disease” for PennWell’s INeedCE.com continuing education portal.

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