Fillings: If Not Silver, Then What?

Dr. Howard Uncategorized 0 Comments

In my last article, I discussed the reasons why Nob Hill Dental Center does not use silver fillings.  To review, they’re ugly, painful and could be hazardous to your health.

So what now?  What can we find to fill teeth that is durable, comfortable, and looks like your teeth?

Way back in the dark ages, when I was still in Dental School and working by kerosene lamp, some smart someone figured out that silver did not look like teeth, did hurt teeth, and might be dangerous.  So that he or she went about figuring out what could be used instead.  They came up with a tooth-colored putty-like material they called Adaptic.  Johnson & Johnson thought it might have promise, so they bought the company and tested the product.  And I had the good fortune to be one of the testers while I was in Dental School Clinic.

Adaptic was made of acrylic resins and finely ground glass particles mixed together.  The idea was that the acrylic resins could be used to carry the glass particles into the tooth in an adaptable mass.  This mass could be pressed into the tooth like the silver filling.  It would set in place over the next several minutes, and would remain there as if it were a silver filling.  But it was the color of tooth.  It was non-toxic.  Everyone was happy.

No, not yet.  As time went on, Adaptic proved not so durable.  It would either break, fall out of the tooth, or distort while in the tooth, allowing food particles and bacteria to penetrate into the spaces between the filling and the tooth.  Not so durable.  But they did look good!

While these white fillings were failing, other companies set about experimenting with similar materials in different formulations.  Before long, it was discovered that you could make a tooth-colored filling more durable if you load it with more glass or quartz particles, then line the cavity with an acrylic-like liquid, then cause the liquid to set by using an ultraviolet light, then press in the stronger material, then set it hard with the ultraviolet light.   These worked pretty well.  Until we discovered that our ultraviolet light could burn gums, and perhaps cause gum cancer.  So we worked again to find a material that could be set hard with a high-intensity blue-white light that would not damage the gums.  And after several generations of materials development, here we are with what we now call “Bonding Materials”.  Attractive, durable tooth filling material that does not last quite as long as silver used to, but it’s pretty close.

Rest assured that here at Nob Hill Dental Center, we are constantly on the lookout for what works better, lasts longer, and is more healthy for your teeth and gums.  We know that better stuff is on the way.

Stay tuned for what else we use that fits well, looks great, and lasts longer than bonding materials.

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