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Victoria Ramos – D.M.D.  at Aleris Salem Dental Center
Elena Siniaver – D.M.D.  at Aleris Salem Dental Center

How Do Fillings Work?

As dentistry is one of the oldest medical professions and tooth decay is the most prevalent oral problem, fillings have been used for a long time, and their history is fascinating. According to multiple types of research, fillings are not a modern invention; the oldest found date back almost 7,000 years. Composite and amalgam are standard fillings, but centuries ago, dentists had to get a little more creative when treating the decayed tooth. Ancient Maya used jade to create fillings that were both functional and decorative. Dentists in medieval England used an exciting mix to create dental fillings: myrrh, beeswax, arsenic, Sulphur, and pig grease. Researchers found multiple surprising evidence that modern dental materials appeared in ancient times. Thus, to give an example, the ancient Etruscans reportedly created dental gold fillings and crowns in 201 AD. A Chinese medical text describes “silver paste” as an amalgam. Some scientists believe that the Chinese may have used amalgam fillings in 700 AD. First known attempts to make fillings that would blend natural teeth were in 1746. Amalgam filling was introduced in the United States in 1833.

Many options are available for dental fillings. Today’s dentists use various techniques and materials depending on patients’ needs, budgets, and placement. There are four types of fillings for cavities:

  • Cast gold fillings that don’t match the rest of the teeth but are solid and last between 10-15 years.

  • Silver amalgam fillings are firm, the least expensive, and last 10-15 years, but they also don’t match teeth, and mercury may be released over time.

  • Composite filling may be more expensive, but solid and durable, match tooth color, and lasts about five years.

  • Porcelain/ceramic fillings are stained-resistant, match teeth, are medium expensive, and may last longer than 15 years.

  • Glass ionomer filling, a blend of glass and acrylic, releases fluoride and helps protect teeth but is less durable than other types.

Fillings treat tooth decay and cavities of all sizes and shapes, repair chipped and cracked teeth, and sometimes restore discolored teeth. Using a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth to be filled, the dentist removes the decayed part of the tooth by using a drill, air abrasion instrument, or laser. After cleaning the space for the filling, the dentist fills it in and finishes and polishes the treated area. A dental filling restores a tooth to its normal function and prevents further damage, which could lead to tooth loss.

For more information about dental health and all treatment options, please call Aleris Salem Dental Center at (855) 745-0055 or contact us online.

Schedule your consultation with the best dentists in Salem, MA!


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