FDA Approves Laser-Powered
Water Drill For Teeth

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For most people a trip to the dentist is one of life's least pleasant rituals, but a new device approved by regulators Monday could make the dental drill and the gum-numbing needle a thing of the past.
San Clemente, Calif.-based Biolase Inc. said the Food and Drug Administration has approved its "Millennium" device which uses a spray of laser-powered water to cut teeth and repair cavities. The company claims the device is so painless most patients don't even need an anesthetic.
"I've used Millennium on many patients and have rarely had to use anesthesia," said Dr. William Greider, a dentist in Fort Myers, Fla., who tested the product.
"This device helps to address two of the greatest fears patients associate with the dentist -- the noise and pain of the drill, and the needles used to administer local anesthesia," he said.
Chief Executive Donald La Point said the new system surpasses currently available laser systems because the water-based device does not generate heat like a laser drill.
Biolase said clinical trials comparing Millennium to conventional high-speed drills found that 98.5 percent of Millennium patients had no discomfort.
About one third of Americans suffer from moderate to high levels of dental fear while some experts estimate more than half of the U.S. population puts off going to the dentist because of fear and anxiety.
While the device has advantages over conventional drills the $40,000 to $45,000 price tag of the new system may leave many dentists open-mouthed.
Wall Street reacted positively to the regulatory clearance sending Biolase's stock more than 50 percent higher. Biolase closed up $1.18 at $3.31 on Nasdaq.