The modern methods we use to treat cavities today would probably seem like miracles to the people who lived even a hundred years ago. Dental treatments and dentistry in general has evolved greatly over the years, and new advancements are made every day. It’s important to understand the history of dentistry so we can learn how far we’ve come today.

The Origins of Fillings

Until recently, it was commonly believed that the first known dentist was an Egyptian scribe known as Hesy-Re. However, some ancient Sumerian texts reveal that people were studying tooth decay. A recent analysis of ancient teeth has found shocking new evidence to show that humans in the Stone Age were used tar to fill cavities. And so the human race began its trek toward healthy teeth and proper treatment of tooth decay. Other archaeological findings show evidence of people using bees wax as fillings. It’s safe to say that humans have always been concerned with proper dental care and treating cavities before they got worse.

The 19th Century

In the 19th Century, we began using metal to fill cavities. First, the dentist would soften the metal being used for the filling—typically gold, tin, or silver—and then would fill the cavity with the softened metal. In China, however, dentists were using dental amalgams to fill teeth. These amalgams were made from a mix of mercury, tin, and silver, and were considerably cheaper to use. They were also easier to apply and lasted longer than typical metal fillings. As such, dentists in the Western Hemisphere began using amalgams as common practice for filling cavities.

The Amalgam Controversy 

Opposition to dental amalgams began as earlier as the late 1800’s, when dentists started drawing conclusions between amalgam fillings and specific health concerns, but the concerns have continued all the way into the 20th Century. Since mercury is used in dental amalgams, people have been concerned about mercury poisoning.

Up until 1986, the American Dental Association (ADA) believed that the mercury found in amalgams was completely harmless. However, as time went on, more and more dentists began linking their patients’ maladies to their amalgam fillings. Some even went as far as removing these fillings and watching as their patients’ health problems faded away.

The Modern Way

1986 wasn’t that long ago, and people are still questioning the safety and health consequences of using mercury fillings. You may be surprised to know that many dentists today still use mercury fillings. However, these kinds of fillings are outdated and unsightly.

Tooth-colored fillings are overall a better choice for filling cavities today. These types of fillings are typically made from composite resin and provide a long-lasting and easy-on-the-eyes solution to your cavities.

If you’re having a hard time making the choice, make an appointment and come see us today. We’ll be able to explain the differences between each type of filling and help you make the best decision for your teeth.