What’s In Your Mouth? New School or Old School Fillings?
Checking your mouth for fillings or amalgams has become an important part of your dental check-up. Fillings a term we hear often, one that we dread having our dentist say during a check-up, and tend to be our first experience with a dental treatment.
But how did our modern concept of thinking about fillings come about? How were fillings first treated and how far have we come in our diagnoses and treatment for fillings? Here are some interesting facts that we found!
Fillings have been around for a long time. Researchers have recently found a filling made out of beeswax, which is estimated to be approximately 6500 years old. Found in a cave near Trieste, Italy, the tooth belonged to a male 24-30 years of age and was most likely filled after he died. Usually in that era, men and women would use their teeth for tasks other than eating, such as using their teeth to soften leather. In this case, it is suspected that the male may have hurt his tooth from these types of tasks instead of eating.
The oldest set of fillings goes back even further than that as researchers discovered 7,500-9,500-year-old molars found in Pakistan. So it’s safe to say fillings have been around for a while and people have needed them for thousands of years.
In the 19th century, metal fillings were used to fill teeth. The metal (which could be any metal from gold, tin, silver, etc.) was softened and put into the tooth. Later on in the 19th century, dental amalgams were introduced to the western hemisphere. A dental amalgam is a type of filling that consists of a mix of tin, silver, mercury, and copper.
After amalgam fillings started to be used, controversy emerged due to the mercury being used in fillings. The amount of mercury first used in fillings was harmful to the patient’s health as the mercury from the dental filling could seep into the person’s system and cause a number of health concerns such as cancer or multiple sclerosis. Since this controversy arose, many precautions have been taken to make sure that modern day fillings are safe for patients.
Today, fillings are available in a number of different materials such as gold, porcelain, silver amalgam, or composite resin fillings, depending on your specific needs. In most cases, the amount of mercury that is included in dental amalgams today is a very small amount. This amount is bound to the other metals in the material, which reduces the amount that is absorbed by the body, making dental amalgams used in dental offices today safe for patients.