Dental amalgams are a great material that provided major leaps in the world of dentistry. While being such a major advance they have also became an issue of great debate. The mercury in dental fillings has been thought to cause central nervous system complications, an overall diminished well-being in some patients, and Alzheimer. The dental field should incorporate safer filling materials for patients. In this article we will take a look at the history of the silver amalgam and view both the negative and null views of this issue.
Throughout the history of dental medicine dentist have searched for the perfect material to aid in the treatment of the most common problem in people’s mouths, cavities. The material would also be useful in fixing chipped and broken teeth. Dentist needed a material that was strong, relatively low costing, easy to apply, durable, and able to limit the growth of bacteria. In the early 19th century in France dentist found their wonder material and that material was amalgam. The dental amalgam is constructed of a mixture of mercury and at least one other metal such as zinc, copper, tin, or silver. The combinations of these metals are the foundation of what gives silver amalgams their strong make up and shiny metallic appearance.
The earliest use of amalgams in dentistry is still quite unknown to researchers but there are claims that it may have been dated as far back as 659 A.D. in China. Before the discovery of the amalgam dentist tried all types of material to help in the restoration of teeth. Stone chips, resin, cork, gum, turpentine, lead, and gold were some of the early materials that were boiled up and poured on teeth to create fillings. A dentist by the name of Louis Regnart had the brilliant idea to add mercury to mixture which lowered the temperature required to boil because of mercury’s low boiling point. This revolutionary achievement placed him in history as the “Father of the Amalgam”. After the discovery of amalgams dentist began placing them on patients as early as 1826. Even with this revolution in the dental field early experts had a few doubts and concerns about the use of mercury. An early dental textbook stated that mercury was “the most pernicious material that has ever been employed for filling teeth, but the mercury is a mischievous ingredient”. The amalgam was brought to the United States by two Frenchmen, The Crawcour brothers, in 1833. Prior to the amalgam in the US the only methods for repairing teeth were to either have them completely removed or hot gold hammered directly into the tooth. Initially the American Society of Dental Surgeons declared to abstain from the use of amalgams because they thought of it as malpractice and forced all of its members to sign a pledge. Being that the amalgams were cheaper than the currently used gold and did not require the painful boiling process the ASDS rescinded and disbanded their pledge in 1856. (10)
Now that we know a little about why dental amalgams...