You might imagine that the idea of getting teeth corrected through getting dental fillings was a new and vaguely experimental concept in the recent past. However, dental fillings have actually been around since the middle ages. While the concept of metal fillings are recent, humans have been using the corrective treatment in some form since the 7th century, using beeswax as a makeshift filling. Today, we’ve perfected the process and can offer fillings in a variety of different materials for a ton of different dental concerns. Whether you want to find a dentist to talk about different filling options or are searching for the best dentists hayesville or. can offer, knowing a little bit about the history of dental fillings can help you have a more nuanced understanding of what fillings are and what they actually do for our teeth and mouth help. If you’re going to get fillings, here are a few things to know about their history.

Modern Fillings Were Made of Metal

While the earliest tooth fillings were made of softer matter like beeswax, the 19th century brought along a more sustainable approach toward filling cavities. The metal filling, made of tin, gold, or mercury, could denote the status of the wearer and were also guaranteed to last a long time without breaking or chipping. Mercury was a popular metal used for fillings because it could be softened easily to be placed into the tooth, and could harden quickly to make normal activities like biting and chewing easier. It didn’t become rigid as quickly as its gold, silver, or zinc counterparts, making it one of the cheaper and more commonly-used choices. However, these fillings, known as “amalgam fillings” started causing harm to patients in the United States and abroad by the mid-1830s. These harmful effects were soon linked back to the use of mercury, which emitted a vapor that caused serious potentially cancer-causing issues and painful symptoms. After the American Society of Dental Surgeons outlawed the use of mercury as filling material in the 1840s, only a few dentists continued using them because of their affordable nature. Some dentists were so adamant about the use of mercury that they decided to form their own society, known as the American Dental Association.

Fillings Later Became Less Mercury-Dependent for Safety

By the mid-20th century, most dentists had switched to using mercury-free metals for filling materials, even though mercury still had its proponents, including a scientist who created a false study claiming that the vapors emitted by mercury were rendered null after the metal came in contact with saliva. As the 20th century progressed, the anti-mercury argument became louder and louder, finally convincing dentists and dental societies across the board that mercury poisoning posed a serious health threat. While other types of metal, including gold and silver, remained in use by dentists, the use of hard metals started to get phased out as we passed into the 21st century. Mercury is still used in very small doses as filler, but because it’s mixed with other metals such as zinc and silver to create amalgam, the vapor that’s released on contact is very minimal. Because hard metals aren’t very flexible and don’t age well, they can pose problems with older sets of teeth, especially if wearers have been dealing with their metal fillings for upwards of 30 years.

Today, Patients Can Take Their Pick

Dental amalgam is still in wide use, however, since many patients prefer not to deal with mercury, and since the mercury content in amalgam creates a problem for pregnant women and people with mercury allergies, a composite material is used for most of today’s dental fillings. This composite material is usually made from a combination of glass and plastic that naturally takes on the look of a natural tooth. Not only does this create a more organic-looking finish, it protects teeth from any possible reactions to the mercury content found in amalgam. However, since composite filling is generally the most expensive option, costing almost twice the price of a silver filling, it’s not the first choice for everyone. The composite has the added advantage of being able to be “sculpted” to the tooth since it retains its softness for a while before hardening. Composite material is also considered to be safer and more beneficial for the tooth itself since it actually pulls the teeth together rather than sitting in the gap of the tooth and serving a mostly neutral function like a silver or amalgam filling might.