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Dentists From Across the Globe Meet To Discuss AIDS and Lasers

February 22, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ AIDS and lasers top the list of issues as thousands of dentists gathered for the 123rd midwinter meeting of the Chicago Dental Society.

Only a few dentists now use lasers as surgical tools to remove lesions and damaged soft tissue from around gums. But experts predict dentists will soon use lasers to do everything from fitting crowns to drilling cavities, said Harvey Wigdor, chief of dental service at Ravenswood Hospital Medical Center.

The four-day conference, which started Sunday, is expected to attract 27,000 dentists and technicians from 26 countries.

AIDS poses challenges because of the small chance of dentists’ contracting it from patients and the difficulty of treating symptoms of the disease, said Dr. Sol Silverman, chairman of Oral Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Silverman said he will urge dentists to wear gloves to protect themselves from contracting AIDS from patients. He said he would impress upon them they are legally and morally obligated to treat people with AIDS.

Only one dentist is believed to have contracted AIDS by treating patients with the deadly virus without taking the proper percautions. Another dentist has tested positive for antibodies to the virus, but has not yet shown symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, Silverman said.

″The risk of contracting the virus is very, very low - but why take the chance?″ he said.

AIDS patients develop many symptoms that must be treated by a dentist, such as mouth lesions, ulcers, fungus and other lumps and bumps, he said.

Silverman said he will instruct dentists how to treat these problems and give them information on how to refer the AIDS patients if the dentist can not handle treatment.

He said he would instruct dentists how to spot early symptoms of AIDS and how to refer them for additional medical assistance.

A French Dentist, Francois Duret of Marseilles University, was scheduled to present his new computerized laser systems, which may revolutionize current procedures for crowns and bridges, Dental Society spokesman Allen Rafalson said.

Doctors discussed the future uses of lasers at preconference workshops at Ravenswood hospital Saturday.

Lasers offer the advantages of being bloodless, very clean and causing less post-treatment pain, he said.

David Harris of the Wenske Laser Center said his laboratory is trying to develop a laser drill ″to get rid of the noise and vibration ... that patients find so adverse″ when they are having cavities drilled.

The high cost of laser equipment - $20,000 to $25,000 - prevents most individual dentists from purchasing it, Widgor said.

But Widgor and Harris, who helped organize the workshops, said prices are expected to drop dramatically in the next few years to an affordable level.

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