The Surprisingly Long History of Dental Fillings
August 22, 2023
Of all the dental procedures, getting a filling is perhaps the most common. Getting a filling is something to be avoided, but when it is required, the procedure can save you from other dental problems, some of them painful and difficult to deal with. Contrary to what many believe, the practice of using fillings to protect damaged teeth has been around for a very long time.
The American Dental Association says that dentistry is the oldest medical profession. Teeth have always needed care, but for hundreds of years, there were no professional dentists and people went to barbers to get teeth extracted and to have other dental work done because there was no one else.
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The Historical Timeline of Dental Fillings
- 4000 BCE: In Trieste Italy, the 6000-year-old body of a young man was found. Beeswax was discovered inside one of his teeth and this is thought to be a dental filling. Other human remains, covering many millennia show evidence of various materials being used as teeth fillings.
- 200 CE: The ancient Etruscans are said to have used gold for dental fillings and crowns.
- 700 CE: An ancient Chinese medical textbook describes the use of an amalgam made of silver paste. It is thought that this amalgam may have been used for dental fillings.
- 1530 CE: In this year, the first formal book about dentistry was published in Germany. This volume contained details about procedures like placing gold fillings, drilling, extracting teeth, and so on.
- 1746 CE: The process of using white enamel to make gold fillings and crowns look more natural was first conceptualized.
- 1789 CE: A patent is given in France for the manufacture of porcelain teeth.
- 1825 CE: A company for the manufacture of porcelain teeth was set up and it dominated the dental supply scene for the next 100 years.
- Mid-1800s CE: Amalgam fillings are introduced in America. In a few years, controversy erupted over the business practices of the promoters so the concept did not catch on. In addition to this, dentists of the time became concerned about the use of mercury in amalgams as it could lead to mercury poisoning. However, because of the advantages that amalgams offered, many dentists continued to use the process.
- 1855 CE: The use of gold foil that enables filling a cavity with soft gold that requires less pressure to be applied is developed.
- 19th & 20th Centuries: The use of metal and amalgam fillings continued to grow along with the use of gold and porcelain.
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Dental Fillings Today
Fillings made of various materials including gold, porcelain, silver amalgam and composite materials are used as fillings. Dentists decide what is right for the patient.
The history of dentistry and the use of fillings may be centuries old, but it remains an important tool in fighting more severe tooth damage and the complications it may lead to. Putting in a filling may be a basic dental procedure but that does not mean that it does not require a great deal of professional expertise. The best way to avoid the need to have a filling is to practice good oral hygiene and go for regular dental checkups. Going to a reputed and established dental practice is the right way to give your family the dental care and protection it deserves and to reduce the need for fillings and other dental procedures.