History Of Dental Fillings

odtKids love candy, but they dread having to get their teeth filled. Eating candy and other sweets and starches leads to cavities. The reason we get cavities is because our mouths are filled with bacteria, some of it good and some of it bad. The bad bacteria reacts with sugars and starches (which break down into sugars) and secrete acid. This acid demineralizes our tooth enamel, softening it up, and leaving it at risk to bacteria and erosion. Brushing your teeth twice–or even better–three times daily removes the sugars that bad bacteria love to feed on. Brushing your teeth can help prevent cavities from forming. Even so, over 90 percent of the population has cavities and more than three-quarters develop their first cavity before the age of 17. Cavities are so common we thought you would like to learn the history of dental fillings.

Way, Way, Back…

If you ever saw the movie Glory with Matthew Broderick, you know that during the Civil War they performed surgeries without anesthesia. Unfortunately, surgeries happen during a war, but you probably don’t think of a toothache cropping up. During the Civil War era, doctors had some strange dental tools at their disposal including a gum lancet, straight forceps, lower molar forceps, a turnkey, and maybe a stump screw. Tin was the common dental filling used. Getting a tooth filled must’ve been a nightmare!

Way Back…

It was in the early 19th century that metals such as gold, silver, and platinum became the materials of choice for dental fillings. Eventually, gold and silver became the most popular. Gold was the strongest filling material, but its color was more noticeable, and it was more expensive than silver. Silver was almost equally as strong as gold, less expensive, and less conspicuous. Silver fillings are an amalgam (mixture) of tin, copper, zinc, silver, and mercury, and even as far back as the Civil War the safety of the mercury content was questioned.


White fillings, or composite resin, are the new material of choice. Composite resin material is a type of plastic–an acrylic resin material–reinforced with powdered glass. The color of the resin blends with your teeth making them inconspicuous. They are preferred for front teeth, but today are strong enough for any area of the mouth. Because they contain no mercury, are safe, and are tooth-colored, composite resin has become the most commonly used dental filling material today.


Michael J. Young, DDS, and his skilled team of dental care professionals happily serve patients and their families, living in Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Scott, Youngsville, and surrounding communities. To learn more, contact us today at our Lafayette dentist’s office at 337-237-6453.