Updated: Feb 23, 2021
I find myself speaking with more and more dentists lately about lasers - Solea specifically. The main questions are does it really work without numbing? Is it as fast as a drill? What's the ROI?
When I purchased Solea it was all about patient experience. Whoever makes the dental experience easiest, wins. So if this product produces a better patient experience, then it will pay off in the long run. Recently I came across a post on Dentaltown that was decidedly sure about whether there is ROI for lasers. Their verdict: There is no ROI with lasers. Period.
Here are my thoughts on the topic of laser ROI:
The ROI discussion is futile. If I sell a handpiece to a layman, it is a complete waste of money because he cannot use it. This is because he lacks the training, knowledge of how lasers work, dexterity, etc. No one would say it’s because I sold him an overpriced handpiece that doesn’t work. Similarly, a dentist who is unable to become efficient with the laser will also experience no ROI. However, MANY doctors become more efficient, and the ROI is explosive. 👉 👉 ROI is completely provider-specific, and you have to be willing to grow, adapt and change. If you don’t want to do those things, then don’t invest in new tech or training. I say this because Solea is not a magic wand that any monkey can pick up and use. It requires commitment.
Many will continue to use drills until they retire, but I think this method will be considered barbaric by the time I retire. This is similar to how we view belt driven hand pieces today.
With that being said, laser dentistry - and by that I mean hard tissue lasers - represents the greatest paradigm shift in dentistry that we’ve seen in a LONG time. First and foremost laser dentistry alleviates the very real fears/anxieties that MANY (not all) patients have. Dentists choose color schemes, music and all kinds of strategies to make the patients comfortable, but the promise of no shot and drill for routine dental work is incredible. This single shift in thinking is enough to drive patients to your office more than any paint color you choose to put in your new ops. Whether you like it or not, patients prefer no shot or drill if its offered to them. Patients are wising up to this, and it is causing them to leave their long time dentist.
Second, lasers are actually clinically better instruments than our traditional handpieces. They kill bacteria inside the teeth while removing decay. Sure you can drill out decay with a handpiece, but the working field is still contaminated. Burs don’t kill bacteria, they just mix them up like jambalaya. It is also significantly more difficult to iatrogenically damage the tooth or “pulp it” with the Solea. Even better, Solea disinfects and changes the surface chemistry of teeth. Early research has shown that teeth prepped with lasers decrease the rate of recurrent caries. (1) Furthermore, lasers promote better healing. CO2 laser use in a hospital settings is very well documented. Think decades of use. Soft tissue surgery with lasers is cleaner, causes less post op pain/swelling, and speeds up healing. So, how do these improvements in clinical care that affect your ROI? Simply put: happier patients. And that’s always a great business plan.
Regarding concerns of lasers cooking the pulp, I’m not sure where this nonsense actually came from. Solea penetrates enamel to a depth of two microns and healthy dentin slightly more. In my experience, there is significantly less post op sensitivity when the laser is the last thing to touch the tooth. So…way fewer toothaches after restorative appointments. Way less post-op endo needed. Additionally, there are no micro fractures of the teeth when prepping with the laser. Even if anesthesia-free dentistry is not your cup of tea, there is a strong argument that cutting your preps with the laser (on numb patients) is better for the tooth.
To recap laser prepped vs handpiece prepped (regardless of anesthesia): Lasers disinfect better, less post op sensitivity/endo, no microfractures, more resistant to recurrent caries, less likely to iatrogenically damage the tooth….None of these have anything to do with how the laser is marketed or its ROI. Again it’s a different way of practicing….a paradigm shift.
Third, dental lasers open the door to new procedures. As if the teeth (hard tissue) weren’t enough reason for dentists to look at Solea, it also happens to be a phenomenal soft tissue laser. Though the ROI conversation is relatively pointless, it fits in best here with soft tissue because it makes simple surgery more tangible for GPs. It’s the same argument people use for selling CBCT and guided implant surgery. If the tools make successful treatment from new procedures easier to achieve, more GPs will perform those procedures. If you add procedures you aren’t doing because they are easier to do, it will increase your laser ROI.
Fourth, Solea gives you flexibility. We all have certain procedures we would prefer to be doing, but pesky class IIs get in the way and take up an inordinate amount of chair time. Traditionally fillings are a time suck because you have to have 30-40 minutes of chair time, and you treat the patient as a second class guest. What I mean by this is you enter and exit the room multiple times while you are dealing with other matters or treatment. This is why same day filling appointments are hard to squeeze in because a lot of us don’t have a room available for 40 minutes to put a patient for a class II. Nor does the patient want to stay an additional 40 minutes and get injected when they are only there for a cleaning. Enter Solea, and we now need 10 minutes of chair time and can probably even do it in the hygiene room without backing their schedule up. This is efficiency. Patients also experience their doctor being fully present because you start the procedure and you don’t leave until it’s done. Even this is a big deal to patients. They hate it when we disappear for 15 minutes doing God knows what, and they know when we are rushing around. So the filing is 10 minutes of chair time, and soft tissue procedure is 2 minutes of chair time. Most of us can find an extra 10 minutes or 2 minutes to make $150 or $400, respectively.
Fifth, say what you want to about ROI and arguing over what price makes the laser “worth it,” but my practice has doubled within 2 years. The first month after installing Solea, my new patient numbers jumped 38% and my revenue grew 60%. Within a year I was hiring my first associate, buying another Solea. I used to track how much more efficient I was at doing fillings. I was doing on average 2-3 fillings an hour and I now do 5-6/hour. This equated to about an extra $10k/month in simple restorative. Just simple restorative. So if you ask me to trade $2,500/month for $10,000/month I will probably make that trade every time….2 years with Solea and I have 2 associates, 3 Soleas, Omni cam, prime scan, 2 mills, CT.
I take credit for making the Solea work. It is not a magic wand. You have to be willing to get uncomfortable, change how you schedule and practice, grow, accept that there are many tools that can get the job done. I have a lot of toys, and I use which ever one does the job best.
And, lastly, if you want to maximize your laser ROI: TELL YOUR STORY! This is one of my favorites so far 👇👇👇