The amount of collateral damage in laser surgery is affected by the precision of the beam delivery. To test a new control system, the authors of this study produced surgical incisions in the canine oral mucosa and then documented histologic and tensile strength changes during the wound healing process. The incisions were made by three different methods: scalpel, manually controlled carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, and computer-controlled C02 laser. Both types of laser incisions took longer to heal than the scalpel incisions. The laser incisions were accompanied by a zone of thermal damage lateral to the incision. With the computer-controlled laser incision, the area of thermal damage was reduced, the laser-induced delay in wound healing was less, and tensile strength was relatively greater. The data indicate that surgical performance is improved by critical beam control.