Dental fillings are one of the most common restorative dentistry procedures. Approximately nine out of 10 adults over the age of 20 have some degree of decay, and fillings allow dentists to preserve the affected teeth. Thankfully, filling cavities is relatively easy and noninvasive. Like other restorative dentistry procedures, though, it evolved over time, and the results weren't always as safe or durable as they are today.

The Origins of Dental Fillings

Fillings are the oldest restorative dental procedure still in use today. The oldest-known fillings to date were discovered in a 13,000-year-old skeleton in northern Italy. Researchers found traces of bitumen, which is a tar-like substance that has antiseptic properties, inside the cavities of the teeth.

Other archaeological discoveries have also provided insight into early means of restorative dentistry. In remains that were dated 6,500 years old, for example, scientists identified a beeswax filling. Also, findings from 2,500 years ago indicate ancient peoples used gold to both restore and replace teeth.

Their Evolution

restorative dentistryGold became the standard for fillings for thousands of years because it’s strong, durable, and resistant to corrosion. In fact, gold is still a viable option for filling cavities today. Thanks to advancements in dentistry, however, other materials have also entered the scene.

During the 19th century, dentists started using amalgams, which contain a mixture of metals, to fill cavities. For example, they often mixed tin, silver, copper, and mercury. When it became clear that exposure to mercury posed health concerns, amalgams were replaced by composites.

Made of silica and plastic, composites aren't as durable as amalgams, but they match the shade of the teeth, so they're totally inconspicuous. What's more, they bond to teeth easily, allowing for smooth seals all the way around. That means fewer nooks and crannies around the setting for plaque to accumulate.

Today, patients can choose from several materials for their fillings. In addition to composite resin and gold, for example, you can opt for silver amalgam—which contains a safe level of mercury—or porcelain. Naturally, each material has drawbacks and advantages.


If you think you might need a dental filling, turn to Timber Drive Dental in Rhinelander, WI. For more than two decades, this full-service practice has been providing general and restorative dentistry care for patients of all ages. With flexible payment options and a commitment to processing insurance claims promptly, they make it easy for patients to get the dental work they need. To learn more about the procedures they perform at their state-of-the-art facility, visit their website. To make an appointment, call (715) 365-1800.