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Dr. Richard W Chan

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Your Guide to Lasers in Orthodontics

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One of the things that really sets Richard Chan Orthodontics apart is our high-tech approach. When I find a proven advance in orthodontics that can bring about amazing results while making patients more comfortable or making their treatment more convenient, I embrace it. For over a decade, one of my favorites has been the orthodontic laser. It’s enabled me to safely, painlessly and quickly do everything from exposing teeth that are slow to erupt to improve the aesthetics of a gummy smile. Today, I’m covering the basics of lasers in orthodontics to help you get a better idea of how they can be a useful tool to really transform your smile.

What is an Orthodontic Laser?

A dental or orthodontic laser relies on light energy to do a variety of jobs. Laser is actually an acronym for “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.” It works by serving as a cutting instrument or by vaporizing tissue. That might sound kind of scary but it’s so gentle you usually won’t even require a needle or anything beyond a topical anesthetic when we use it for a procedure.

There are several different types of lasers, including those that work on hard tissues and can do the job of your dentist’s drill. However, when it comes to lasers in orthodontics, we’re generally talking about soft tissue lasers like the diode laser. Because the light from a diode laser isn’t absorbed well by hard tissue, it’s excellent for procedures involving the soft tissues in your mouth like your gums, as it gives us maximum precision and won’t damage the teeth.

What are Some of the Common Uses for Lasers in Orthodontics?

A big reason I love lasers is that they’re an extremely versatile tool. Here are some of the common uses of our soft tissue laser:

  • Exposing teeth that are slow to erupt – If your child is ready to get braces but a tooth hasn’t erupted on schedule or not enough of the tooth is exposed to place a braces bracket, sometimes, I can use a laser to remove the gum tissue and reveal the tooth. This can prevent us from waiting months for a slowpoke tooth to make an appearance on its own and eliminate the need for a traditional oral surgery procedure.
  • Esthetic gingival recontouring – Esthetic gingival recontouring, sometimes called laser gum contouring, is doctor-speak for using the laser to remove and reshape excess gum tissue. For example, if your gums come too far down and are covering too much of your teeth, the teeth can look short or it can create the appearance of a “gummy” smile. With laser gum contouring, I can remove the extra gum tissue and reshape what’s left to give you the perfect frame for your newly aligned teeth. It will bring about a balance between the teeth and gums for a more esthetic smile.
  • Frenectomy –  There are two kinds of frenums – a lingual frenum and a labial frenum. The lingual frenum is that piece of tissue that runs from the base of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth behind the lower teeth. Sometimes, the size or position can restrict the movement of the tongue, making speech difficult or, in infants, interfering with nursing or bottle feeding. The condition is called “tongue-tied.” Using the laser, an orthodontist or dentist can quickly and painlessly free the tongue to allow a normal range of motion.

More commonly in my practice, I perform labial frenectomies. The labial frenum is the tissue that goes from the gums above the upper front teeth to the lip. If it’s overly long or wide, it can actually create an unwanted space between the front teeth. With an orthodontic laser, I’m able to eliminate the tissue between the teeth so that I can close the gap with braces or Invisalign.

  • Removal of tissue tags – Sometimes, tissue tags can form in the mouth. These little growths are typically benign and harmless but their appearance can bother some patients. The diode laser can get rid of them in seconds without any discomfort.
  • Reducing the pain or severity of aphthous ulcers – Aphthous ulcers, also known as canker sores, are lesions that form in the mouth and along the base of the gums. They can be painful and orthodontic appliances can rub against them causing even more irritation. An orthodontic laser can help speed up healing time and alleviate some of the pain or severity of the sores.
  • Removing Excess Gum Tissue to Place Appliances like TADs – Occasionally, excess gum tissue can get in the way of placing appliances, such as temporary anchorage devices. I can use the laser to remove extra tissue to make space for the appliance.

I have included some before and after photos of actual patients who recently underwent procedures with our laser.

CASE 1: 

This patient did not like the square and bulbous tissue around her teeth after her braces came off.

This is the result after 2 weeks. No bleeding, minimal soreness, and no shots during the procedure. The patient was very excited.


The patient had an extra little tissue tag that really bugged him. You can see it between two of his bottom front teeth. Of all the options to remove it, the laser was definitely the easiest, with no shots, no bleeding, and no pain.

This picture was taken immediately after the laser removal. It took just minutes!

CASE 3: 

This patient has had a history of thick, fibrous gum tissue, even before orthodontic treatment. She did not like the aesthetic look of her smile.

As you can see, there was a huge difference from the laser treatment! The patient is very happy with her smile now. The procedure was done with only some topical numbing solution (no shots!), and there was no bleeding afterward.

What are the Benefits of Orthodontic Laser Treatment?

There are a host of benefits of orthodontic laser treatment as compared to taking a traditional approach, which would usually involve a scalpel or a drill. The laser is:

  • Gentle and virtually painless. In most cases, no needles are necessary. I can often just apply a topical anesthetic. You won’t feel anything but the laser moving.
  • Excellent for patients with dental anxiety or a fear of needles. Since needles aren’t usually involved and the laser takes the place of tools like scalpels, it can go a long way in making patients feel less anxious.
  • Minimizes bleeding and swelling. This is an especially big plus for procedures like laser gum surgery because you won’t have a lengthy healing period or have to spend time away from work or school.  

Is Orthodontic or Dental Laser Treatment Safe?

Lasers in orthodontics are safe for all ages and have been used for dental applications since 1994. A laser is extremely precise and we can perform procedures without worrying about damaging surrounding tissue or the teeth. Because dental laser treatment is so gentle, many times, it’s the option of choice even for infants and young patients.

Want to learn more about the high-tech orthodontic treatments I offer as an Alaskan and Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek orthodontist? Or, would you like to see if a laser can help you get a picture-perfect smile? Schedule a free consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics today!


woman wearing braces smiling

Do You Know How to Brush Your Teeth With Braces? Take Our Quiz to Find Out!

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At Richard Chan Orthodontics, when my braces or Invisalign patients kick off treatment, I make sure to explain to them in detail how to care for their new appliances. However, with the holidays in full swing and lots of fun to be had, you could have forgotten some of the finer points on Invisalign and braces care. Well, let’s test your knowledge with a quiz that covers everything from how to brush your teeth with braces to how many hours a day you should wear your aligners. Write down your responses and check them against the answers at the end to see how well you did.

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young girl wearing braces looking up at camera

A Parents’ Guide to Early Orthodontic Treatment

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The American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven. That’s because at this time, a child will have his or her first permanent molars, which establish the back bite. We can then look at the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships to see how things are shaping up. While early orthodontic treatment has become more prevalent in recent years, that doesn’t mean your child will leave their first appointment in braces. In fact, at Richard Chan Orthodontics, I always treat extremely conservatively with minimal treatment on young patients. Most of the time, I can get outstanding results without two-phase orthodontic treatment. That being said, there are times when stepping in early can prevent the need for more extensive treatment or surgical correction later in life.

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8 Things You Won’t Hear Us Say When Getting Braces On

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A decade or two ago, the braces experience was quite a bit different than it is today. The hardware was bigger, bulkier and less comfortable.  More frequent adjustments were needed due to less technologically advanced wires. A lot has changed but patients still get a little nervous about getting braces on and about treatment in general. It’s often because of hearing other people’s braces stories from a long time ago, the way they’re portrayed in pop culture or just a fear of the unknown. My team and I always chat with our Alaska, Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek braces and Invisalign patients at their consultation and let them know exactly what to expect. This goes a long way in helping to alleviate any jitters they’re feeling. We also take a personalized, patient-centric approach, meaning our focus is on ensuring you’re comfortable, relaxed and happy. With that in mind, here are 8 things you won’t hear us say when getting braces on:
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10 Back-to-School Life Hacks for Busy Seattle Moms and Dads

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The first day of school is quickly approaching for our Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA braces and Invisalign patients. With three kids of my own, I know just how frantic things can be once September rolls around. Balancing your own schedule along with getting the kids to school on time, activities, meals and appointments is a challenge. However, along the way, the team here at Richard Chan Orthodontics has learned quite a few helpful back-to-school life hacks for busy moms and dads. Here are 10 tricks to help ensure things run smoothly when the first bell rings and throughout the school year:
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Why You Need to Attend Our Patient Appreciation BBQ

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At Richard Chan Orthodontics, we’re lucky to have the best patients in the world! Dr. Chan and our team look forward to coming into the office every day because of the awesome kids, teens and adults we get to hang out with. Transforming a smile is a journey and over the course of treatment, we get to know our patients and their families on a personal level and form lasting bonds. What better way to say thank you for being the best than with a party? That’s exactly what we’re going to do at our 10th Annual Patient Appreciation BBQ at Blyth Park (16950 West Riverside Drive, Bothell). Mark your calendars because this year’s free event will be held on Thursday, August 16 from 11:30am to 2:30pm. It’s open to all of our Juneau and Sitka, AK and Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA orthodontic patients and their friends and families. Why should you attend? Read More

5 Educational Family Activities in Seattle

5 Educational Family Activities in Seattle

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Those first few weeks after school lets out are always the best. The kids are excited to have a break, parents are happy to get in some quality time with little ones and the possibilities for summer fun seem endless. Then, at a certain point, for some of us parents, we may run out of ideas for keeping the whole family entertained. Or, we start worrying about the dreaded “summer learning loss,” when children and teens begin to forget some of the things they’ve learned during the previous school year. There is a way to solve both problems at once and that’s by adding a few activities that combine fun and learning to your itinerary. The families at our Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA orthodontic offices have the benefit of living near Seattle, which happens to be full of activities and destinations to help you do just that. Here’s the Richard Chan Orthodontics team’s five favorite educational family activities in Seattle to try out this summer:

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How We Make Orthodontic Treatment Affordable for Our Patients

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At Richard Chan Orthodontics, our practice is centered on the idea that everyone should have access to the best orthodontic care regardless of their financial situation. No one should have to miss out on having a healthy, confident smile because of their budget. That’s why we do everything in our power to make our Alaska, Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA orthodontic treatment affordable for our patients without compromising on results or service. From flexible financing to free consultations, here’s how we strive to ensure having straight teeth isn’t a luxury or out of reach for the families in our community.

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10 Weekend Getaway Ideas for Seattle Families

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Spring is here and after spending so much time indoors throughout the winter, it’s only natural that everyone starts dreaming of their next adventure. In fact, a lot of Richard Chan Orthodontics’ Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA Invisalign and braces patients already have trips in the works. However, it’s often hard for families to take extended vacations or travel to distant lands with little ones in tow. Thankfully, sometimes all you need is a long weekend to hit the reset button. Plus, living near Seattle means there are tons of amazing places close by to explore. Here are some of the best weekend getaways idea for Seattle families

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Cheap winter activies for kids juneau alaska

10 Cheap Winter Activities for Kids in Juneau, Alaska

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It’s pretty hard to beat the breathtaking Alaskan views, which is just one of the reasons Dr. Chan loves being a Sitka and Juneau orthodontist. He also loves getting to know his patients and their families and in the process, he learns about all the fun stuff going on in the area. We know in the middle of winter, keeping children and teens entertained can be challenging and, let’s face it, expensive. Well, the Richard Chan Orthodontics team is here to help. We’re sharing the inside scoop on some of the best free and cheap winter activities for kids in Juneau, AK.

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