In a quarter that should finally make investors smile, dental laser maker BiolaseTechnology (NASDAQ:BLTI) reported third-quarter earnings -- well, losses, really -- that were substantially narrower from last year. It looks like the company has finally started to hone in on its cost-cutting program.

While you can get the full rundown on the raw numbers in this Fool by Numbers article, the high point seems to be that BioLase has signed on medical-device distributor Henry Schein (NASDAQ:HSIC) as its exclusive distributor for North America. In return, the marketer paid Biolase a $5 million licensing fee, which the company in turn used to pay off its outstanding line of credit. With no long-term debt, a paid-in-full line of credit, a new two-year $10 million credit facility, and a tough new distribution agent, Biolase looks poised to whiten smiles with a blackened bottom line.

The quarter showed improvements just about everywhere. Revenues were up 46% for the quarter, to $17.1 million, as international sales saw a huge 84% increase over last year. As a result, where domestic sales had traditionally represented nearly three-quarters of BioLase's net revenues, they now compose just two-thirds. The international market is a hoped-for source of expansion for many aesthetic laser makers, like Palomar Medical Technologies (NASDAQ:PMTI) and its new arch-rival Candela (NASDAQ:CLZR). However, BioLase is relying primarily on a single Korean distributor that's drawn criticism for making dubious sales pitches.

Nevertheless, domestic sales also enjoyed strong organic growth, as sales of Biolase's signature Waterlase MD system grew 20% year over year. That growth came in addition to sales made to Henry Schein for its own customers. Overall, net domestic revenues increased 32% for the quarter.

Gross profits also enjoyed significant improvements, rising 500 basis points to 50.5% of net revenues. And while the company still showed an operating loss, expenses were cut essentially across the board to generate savings, narrowing the loss from $5.2 million to $1.1 million this year. That helps explain why the company was able to trounce analyst expectations.

Investors who use such estimates to make their investment decisions should take caution, though. It's true that Biolase's quarter was very good, even though it's still recording losses, but when you see that it beat analyst revenue forecasts by more than $2 million, and EPS estimates by $0.04, you still need to look a little closer. First, there were only two analysts rating the company, one of whom had an exceptionally low $12.7 million estimate on sales. That obviously skews results, which means he was probably also responsible for forecasting a $0.09-per-share loss in earnings. The other analyst on Biolase was much closer to the mark. So don't minimize Biolase's achievement, but also don't take any claims of "trouncing" analyst estimates at face value, either.

Now, when you scan BioLase's balance sheet, you may initially have some concerns. Sure, revenues were up 46%, and inventories were reduced year over year, but accounts receivable spiked by more than 61% for the same period. That often signals a company's inability to collect on its bills. Often, but not always. In this case, the A/R number was so high because of payments expected from Henry Schein for equipment sales, which hadn't yet been received by the end of the quarter. On its conference call, management noted that $4.8 million of that balance had already been paid off. That's a sufficient enough reason for investors to look beyond just the bare numbers a company puts out.

Aesthetic lasers, including the dental laser market, still appear to this Fool to have tremendous room for growth, both here in the U.S. and abroad. Biolase, as one of the leading dental laser makers, seems to have cauterized its losses, though one quarter is not enough to convince a skeptic that it has truly turned the corner. A succession of improvements remain unaccomplished; though you may not catch the bottom, that should ensure enough margin of safety to quiet concerns that this quarter's results were a fluke.

With the potential for a deal for a home tooth-whitening system developed with Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) -- the consumer products giant signed a deal with Biolase in the early summer and paid the company $3 million, but no news has followed -- new sales could be supercharged. Word on the deal is expected before year's end.

I still find BioLase a little rich at these prices, even though shares sit about a third below their 52-week high. The company still produces negative free cash flow, though that, too, should be narrowing. At a price-to-sales multiple of almost 3, BioLase seems a bit costly. But at least current shareholders can stop frowning about their company's performance.

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Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Candela, but does not own any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.