We are witnessing a golden era of dentistry, with effective dental fillings backed by profound scientific knowledge. However, our ancestors were not so blessed, so for them cavities only meant disaster. Thus, let us dive into the history of dental fillings.
The concept of scraping out the dead tissues and stuffing the tooth with filling dates back several centuries. Back then, people got creative with their selection of fillings and even filled their tooth with the likes of:
Bitumen: The oldest evidence of bitumen fillings dates back about 13000 years. Back then, this person deliberately allowed the cavities to progress. Thus, the massive decay allowed him to bore out the diseased tissue and filled the hole with bitumen.
Beeswax: The unearthing of an Italian man who lived back around 6500 years revealed the use of beeswax fillings. Interestingly, this cave dweller cracked his teeth while performing some task other than eating.
For several years many tried their hand at dental fillings using varying material like copper, tin, aluminium but to minimum effect.
The Chinese Breakthrough:
An ancient Chinese medical text dating around 700 AD mentioned “silver paste filling”. Thus, many consider this as the first citation of silver amalgam in the history of dental fillings. However, silver amalgam was not a popular choice back then.
The First Book About Dentistry:
In 1530, Artzney Buchein wrote the first recorded book about dentistry, and it also contained instructions about dental fillings and tooth extraction.
Fun Fact: Apart from surgeons, the book was for barbers. Yes! Barbers! Apparently, at that time dental treatment with a haircut was a trend.
The French Contribution:
In 1789, a French man received a patent for porcelain teeth. Now at this point in history, with the invention of porcelain teeth, natural-looking fillings were possible. Nevertheless, the choice of the most common filling during that era was metal amalgams. However, during the 19th century, the table turned against the use of traditional mercury amalgam.
During the 19th Century:
During this time, many dentists expressed their concern over the use of mercury amalgam as a dental filling. Mercury was not only ineffective but also quite harmful to the body. This is because the body readily absorbed the mercury in the amalgam that leads to mercury poisoning. Thus, with valid concerns about mercury, dentists revised the filling materials and searched for other alternatives. Hence, these objections lead us to the modern form of dental fillings.
The Modern Dental Fillings:
To this date, metal amalgam remains the filling of choice. Nowadays, although the silver amalgam has mercury, it is in the form of salt. Something which the body does not absorb, so this amalgam poses no harm.
A Variety Of Fillings:
Today, we have several varieties to choose from, a luxury our ancestors did not have. You can choose according to your budget and requirements. Common fillings nowadays are as follows:
- Metal Amalgam
- Composite resin