Then and Now: How Dental Fillings Have Changed Through the Years

 In General Dentistry

At some point, most people will need a dental filling in their life.  But, maybe it’s been a while since you’ve last had one, or maybe it’s your first time needing dental restoration altogether, and you’re not sure what to expect.  We understand that some people may be afraid of getting dental fillings because of dated information out there. That’s why we’re going to break it down, looking at both the then and now.

This common procedure has come a long, long way from its beginnings.  The tools have changed, the methods have changed, and even the results have changed – all for the better!  So, let’s take a look at how fillings have evolved over the years and what you can expect of modern fillings today.

  • Mercury Fillings – Even today, when most people think of fillings, they think of the old mercury ones.  But, this is far from today’s standard. These original dental fillings required making a mold of a metal alloy called dental amalgam, which mostly contained silver.  But, that was only half of the equation, as the other 50 percent of these fillings were made of mercury. Now, this obviously led to many health concerns, as mercury is in fact toxic.  The risk of toxicity was small since it wasn’t free flowing, but it was still of concern. The other concern with these fillings, though, was that they required undercutting, a more invasive process of removal of extra tooth matter in order to create a better position for the filling to sit.  These types of fillings are rarely used now.
  • Tooth-Colored Composites –  Today, dentists offer a less invasive solution with special composites.  These require less removal of tooth matter and tissue around the cavity and don’t have to be fitted into a socket like the amalgam fillings needed.  They easily bond with your teeth. With these, you also get a filling that is similarly colored to your teeth so that you don’t have to worry about those unsightly dark patches ruining your smile.  
  • Indirect Fillings – This is a more recent alternative that requires two visits.  On your first visit, your dentist will remove the decayed material or old fillings and take an impression of your tooth’s shape as well as the surrounding teeth.  This impression is used to create the indirect filling in a lab. Then, on your second visit, the created filling is cemented into the tooth. These fillings are a nice option for teeth that don’t necessarily require a crown but have enough damage that a common filling just isn’t suitable.    
  • Laser Dentistry – Yes, everything these days can be done with a laser, even dentistry!  This is especially good news for those whose fear of having dental work done actually keeps them from getting the help that they need to stay healthy.  With laser dentistry, there’s no concern over filling materials, and there’s no pain at all. The lasers simply allow dentists to drill through the damaged material to make room for a filling without the need for needles, drills or sedation.  

In the past, patients only had one option – the mercury amalgam fillings.  But, today, there are more options and materials to work with than ever before.  Now, getting a filling is simple. Talk to your dentist about your needs and concerns, and they’ll work with you to find the perfect procedure to suit your smile.     

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