Fotona’s CEO Dr Matjaž Lukač at the company’s IDS booth. (Photograph: Robert Strehler, DTI)

Interview: “At IDS, Fotona is introducing the latest software upgrade”

By Dental Tribune International
March 15, 2019

After its launch at IDS in March 2011, Fotona’s dual-wavelength (Er:YAG and Nd:YAG) LightWalker laser system quickly earned widespread industry praise and won several respected technology and innovation awards. Today, the LightWalker laser is one of the most cutting-edge and reliable laser systems on the market, according to Fotona. Dental Tribune International met with Fotona’s CEO, Dr Matjaž Lukač, at the company’s IDS booth to find out why this laser has remained one of the top-selling global dental lasers.

First of all, congratulations! Eight years have passed and your LightWalker laser system is again featuring at IDS. What sets this laser apart from others?
LightWalker has of course kept all the advanced features that made LightWalker such a success when it was introduced. However, by introducing our Adaptive Structured Pulse (ASP) technology, Fotona has made an additional revolutionary step forwards with respect to controlling laser pulses in the temporal domain. ASP signifies that it is now possible to adapt the temporal envelope and structure of laser pulses to exactly match the requirements of the laser–tissue interaction for a particular treatment. The output of the ASP-powered LightWalker is now even more exactly tailored to the requirements of specific procedures. Also, it features an advanced Quantum Square Pulse mode that introduces a truly optimised erbium laser performance to the dental practice with regard to all three basic requirements in hard-tissue dental treatments: ultra-fast procedures with minimal heat deposition and maximum comfort for the patient.

LightWalker has a very comprehensive list of applications. Could you tell us more about the system’s treatment options, and how dentists can benefit from using a laser?
It is a well-established fact that different dental procedures require different laser wavelengths. Wavelength is important because specific body tissues interact in different ways, depending on the particular laser source. With the choice of two complementary wavelengths, in terms of their effect on tissue, LightWalker is a universal laser. Practically all laser-assisted dental treatments can be performed with either the more highly absorbed Er:YAG laser wavelength or the selectively absorbed, deeper-penetrating Nd:YAG laser wavelength.

Additionally, with the revolutionary new Shock Wave Enhanced Emission Photoacoustic Streaming (SWEEPS) mode, root canals can be disinfected with superior results and with less inflammation and post-op discomfort. With SWEEPS, a faster photoacoustic streaming of endodontic irrigants can now be produced, even in narrow root canals, resulting in the emission of a large number of enhanced photoacoustic waves throughout the canal.

Another unique feature of the ASP-powered LightWalker is the proprietary Fotona SMOOTH mode for non-ablative resurfacing treatments of the soft tissue. Patients can now leave the dental office with not only more beautiful teeth, but also more beautiful skin after having been treated by their dentist for small facial imperfections. And at night, they and their spouses can even sleep better after having received the non-invasive, patient-friendly NightLase treatment for reducing snoring and the effects of sleep apnoea. LightWalker has definitely become a “magic wand” for the twenty-first-century dentist.

You said that, over the years, new features have been added to the LightWalker laser system. What are the latest software or firmware updates and usability improvements?
I have already discussed a number of technological innovations and improvements which have considerably enhanced and expanded LightWalker’s capabilities since its introduction. The range of procedures available to existing LightWalker owners has also been constantly growing as new accessories are added to LightWalker’s handpiece arsenal. Some of the most recently added accessories include the Genova Nd:YAG laser handpiece for bio-modulation and pain management, the LA adapter for Er:YAG laser intra-oral non-ablative facial treatments and the FS-01 fractional Er:YAG handpiece for soft-tissue treatments.

A distinguishing LightWalker feature is the very intuitive, easy-to-use colour touch screen with approximately 100 customisable presets covering more than 40 applications. At IDS, Fotona is introducing the latest software upgrade, which makes the use and customisation of procedures even easier and more intuitive. The latest user interface now enables the dentist to completely customise the graphically supported presets, including the possibility to upload presets that are recommended by various laser specialists.

How can dentists learn to use the LightWalker laser effectively? Do you provide any laser training courses?
We are aware that leading technologies can often be under-utilised, owing primarily to ineffective or a lack of training and mentoring. In reality, most standard procedures are not rocket science and can easily be implemented after appropriate training. For this reason, Fotona is committed to ensuring that LightWalker users get the education and coaching needed to fully integrate laser technology into their practices. With this commitment in mind, Fotona works closely with international educational organisations in the field of laser dentistry to offer the highest level of training and education. The Laser and Health Academy (LA&HA), in particular, offers numerous possibilities for attending workshops and other educational events of all sizes, up to 100 participants. With the help of live video transmission from the LA&HA Institute’s laser room, or from remote locations anywhere in the world, each participant has equal access to observe live procedures up close. And for the most ambitious users, the LA&HA also offers a very popular five-module master’s program in laser dentistry.

A laser system is quite an investment. Is there a significant long-term higher value for laser dental practices? How long does it generally take to get a return on investment for a LightWalker laser system?
Thousands of dentists around the world use lasers every day in their practices. Implementing a laser into a practice expands the procedures that a dentist can offer to patients while providing them with a higher quality of care and comfort. Therefore, owning a LightWalker can have a significantly positive financial impact on the practice’s bottom line. While every practice is unique, our experience shows that practices can recoup their investment in as short a time as three to 12 months.

Dentists often complain that the cost of consumables for the expensive high-tech dental devices they’ve purchased is very high. These indirect costs are quite often hidden by manufacturers prior to purchase. Is there a need to purchase obvious consumables, like handpieces, from Fotona, and if so, what is the cost of consumables in relation to the cost of the laser?
Fotona is known for developing medical devices that require as few consumables as possible. This is one of the great features of all Fotona’s devices: minimal costs for consumables. The basic LightWalker package enables the dentist to use the equipment from day one without extra costs. In addition, Fotona’s advanced R & D, combined with in-house manufacturing, ensures industry-leading levels of quality and reliability, resulting in low maintenance costs throughout the laser’s lifetime.

In endodontics, Fotona has recently introduced enhanced laser-activated root canal irrigation with the new SWEEPS technology. What are the main advantages of this technique?
LightWalker’s SWEEPS technology allows dentists to perform less-invasive endodontics more efficiently and effectively than with traditional methods. The SWEEPS technology delivers extremely short laser pulses for highly effective photodynamic streaming and shock wave-enhanced cleaning of complex root canals. This advanced, yet easy-to-use technology has enabled dentists to perform many more root canal therapies in their own practice rather than referring these cases to specialists. The many technical and clinical advantages of LightWalker have thus given dentists the confidence that they are performing the best endodontic treatment possible.

In periodontics, a new LightWalker indication for periodontal regeneration has been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration and received the CE marking. Could you explain what is meant by the term “regeneration” and how it affects the final treatment outcome?
Several decades since the introduction of lasers into treatment protocols, laser technology has now been accepted as a beneficial adjunct or alternative periodontal therapy with the ability to promote regeneration of periodontal tissue as supported also by LightWalker’s recent FDA clearance for true regeneration of the attachment apparatus. Owing to the complementary effects of LightWalker’s Er:YAG and Nd:YAG near-infrared laser wavelengths, the Fotona TwinLight dual-wavelength procedure synergistically combines the individual effects of both wavelengths for better and more comprehensive resolution or control of periodontal disease, and thus represents a significant step forwards in periodontal therapy.

Fotona has over 50 years of experience in laser technology. How does the company remain competitive, keep up with the rapidly evolving technology and continue to meet customer needs?
The most innovative devices, those that are on the edge of what technology today can deliver, usually require high maintenance and servicing. Fotona is changing this paradigm. Our goal is to change the world of medicine by developing ultra-performance laser systems that are also ultra-reliable at the same time. We do not stop at improving the lives of doctors and patients. It is equally important to us that our employees, partners and customers feel appreciated and respected and that they know they are all members of Fotona’s global family. Who is your safety net in this occasionally crazy world? On whom do you rely the most? On your family! Although it is technology that brings us together, it is quality of life that really matters at the end of the day. That is why we, the Fotona family, enjoy this exciting ride of making the world a better place as “One family together”, as we like to say.

Fotona is known to have an advanced R & D team in-house. Has this been the key to Fotona’s success?
Absolutely. Fotona has one of the most highly educated and acclaimed workforces in the industry, and its world-class engineering staff includes a large team of talented and experienced doctorate holders specialising in medical laser technology. This makes me confident that Fotona will continue to play an important role in enriching global society with our ultra-performance medical devices. Since its beginning, Fotona has been an active and passionate participant in the exciting development of laser photonics. We were one of the first to realise the potential of laser holography, or of free-air–laser communication. It was Fotona’s technology that enabled the world’s first live optical video transmission of TV signals during the Olympic Games in 1984. That same year, we developed our first medical laser for use in ophthalmology, and then proceeded into dentistry, dermatology, surgery and gynaecology. LightWalker is thus based on Fotona’s 50 years of experience in laser technology.

What emerging trends do you see in less-invasive laser dentistry in five to ten years’ time?
Modern dentistry is simply not modern without an advanced laser such as Fotona’s LightWalker. Nobody likes the drill or the shot—and with LightWalker both are avoided. Practitioners can now explain to young children that this “walking light” simply shines on their tooth and makes the “tooth bugs” disappear. I think the future will bring even more new and interesting pulse modalities for faster cutting, as well as more soft-tissue developments and additional aesthetic treatment options that will be similar to what the latest LightWalker already offers, like SmoothLase, NightLase and LipLase. These procedures were developed by Fotona as alternatives for dental practitioners who want to expand their aesthetic options. They are carried out entirely intra-orally and the end result can be amazing. LipLase, which is actually a lip enhancement procedure, stimulates the development of collagen in the lips for more volume and even allows for the shape of lips to be changed. SmoothLase is a method of facial rejuvenation that prevents and helps smooth out wrinkles and tightens ageing skin. NightLase is a well-tested, non-invasive anti-snoring treatment. Therefore, I believe that offering this type of treatment portfolio to dentists is what we can expect to see even more of in the future.

Be sure to visit Fotona in Hall 10.2 at Booth M050 at IDS 2019!

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