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Changes in Cosmetic Dentistry over the Years

Author: Russel Roderick

Russel Roderick

04.30.15 / 2:59 pm

The history of medicine is marked by extensive trial and error. Leeches were thought to be a cure-all, electric shocks were used to treat depression… overall, we’ve made a lot of progress, but it came with a lot of mistakes. Cosmetic dentistry has also changed a lot over the years. Let’s go over how cavity filling and missing tooth solutions have evolved.

Metal Amalgams to Tooth-Colored Composites

The Little Medicinal Book for All Kinds of Diseases and Infirmities of the Teeth, published in 1530, was the first book known to cover only dentistry. It’s also one of the first known references to the practice of filling cavities with gold foil.

According to Norwegian historian Geir Bjørklund, records of metal fillings go much further back. He reports that the Chinese medical text Hsin Hsiu Pen Tsao, whichwas written in 659, details the practice of using silver and tin mixes to fill cavities.

Gold foil… metal amalgams… that will cover up cavities and stave off the horrors of infected nerves and abscessed teeth, but they sure aren’t pretty. There’s also some concern about the mercury content found in amalgams, although most experts agree that the level of mercury exposure is not really a serious health risk.

Enter composite fillings: a new mix of plastic and glass that doesn’t have any trace of poisonous mercury and is tooth-colored for a more natural appearance.

From Dentures through Bridges to Dental Implants

Another dental problem that has plagued people since the beginning of mankind is the unfortunate incident of the missing tooth. There might be some small margin of rugged appeal to the missing-tooth look, but most people would prefer there to be no gaps in their smile.

Dentures have long been a way for people to hide their missing teeth; dating back to George Washington. The claim that Washington’s false teeth were wooden appears to be nothing more than a myth, but our first president did indeed wear dentures, which he often complained about.

George would have been more comfortable today. He could have a bridge installed, which would hide the missing tooth by suspending a crown attached to caps on the two teeth adjacent to the missing tooth. This solution is particularly efficient when the two teeth neighboring the gap are damaged and could use a cosmetic restoration.

Perhaps the most effective solution is the dental implant. These are screw-like posts driven through the gums and into the jawbone to replace a missing tooth root. The implant is underneath the gums, and the part that actually looks like a tooth is a crown attached on top of the post. Dental implants have the cosmetic benefits of bridges, and they also support the jawbone so it doesn’t deteriorate, which can be a problem with bridges and dentures.


Russel Roderick

37 responses to “Changes in Cosmetic Dentistry over the Years”

  1. Dentistry is going through exponential changes. Perhaps no single event in the last 100 years of dentistry has had a greater impact than the recent recession.

  2. Dentistry has gone through a lot of changes over the years, such as those mentioned here and many more including straightening and whitening.The Whyte House Dental practice have done so much for me over the years, dentistry has completely transformed my life by improving myself confidence.

  3. I definitely think President George Washington would’ve been more comfortable in today’s dentures, or he could’ve had a bridge to fix the problem altogether. 🙂 Can’t wait to see what the future for cosmetic dentistry holds.

  4. […] Changes in Cosmetic Dentistry over the Years Cosmetic dentistry has been constantly evolving and changing over the years. From metal amalgams to tooth-colored composites and dentures to dental implants, cosmetic dentistry has certainly been refined since 1530 when the first cavities were filled with gold foil. […]

  5. Interesting fact is that Washington gifted his last tooth to the dentist who created his dentures. Would have been an interesting set of dentures to see.

  6. Over the years dentistry went through various advancements when it comes to dental related technology. We’re lucky enough we don’t need to go through the difficulties our ancestors experienced to achieve flawless and beautiful smiles.

  7. I always tell my patients it’s much better being in dentistry now vs 50 years ago because of the advances in technology, and yes, cosmetic dentistry.

  8. Thanks for sharing these different dentistry innovations. It’s amazing that we are able to actually screw a post into the jaw to permanently replace a missing tooth. In fact, I think that as dental procedures become more precise and safe, dental implants will become the standard for tooth replacement. The health benefits of dental implants against dentures also makes them a much more appealing solution.

  9. I didn’t know that dentistry has changed so much over the years. I guess it goes to show that you never know what is going to happen. My father wants to get some cosmetic dentistry done. He says he wants a little more confidence around others.

  10. Cosmetic dentistry has changed a lot in tems of procedures, not to mention the technology being used now. It’s a far cry from what we had 50 to 100 years ago. If there’s one thing that didn’t change, it’s the need for dental assessment before a procedure.

  11. There are so many different things available now in the realm of cosmetic dentistry. I am not sure if I knew already that George Washington has dentures! Something about that just blows my mind. We may have to look into this kind of procedure soon, but I am glad that technology is where it is now.

  12. As technology improves dentistry will continue to evolve. Dental practices will need to adapt and change with the times or get left behind!

  13. I am so glad to know that mercury is not going to be in my teeth anymore! Gosh, that would be horrific just like you said, many thanks Russel for addressing some of the most common concerns with cosmetic dentistry. Do you by chance recommend any good cosmetic dentists in the Fairfax Virginia area?


  14. Especially in medical fields, it’s hard sometimes to see real change. It’s awesome to see the that tooth-colored composites that are actually made of plastics and glass. I am hoping to have better teeth when I’m old than my grandparents.

  15. It’s cool to see how cosmetic dentistry has changed over the years. I think that the change is good, it means that they are improving and the service is getting better. I think a big change is, like you say, is the dental implant. It offers authentic teeth for people who don’t have any.

  16. My son recently lost a tooth. My wife and I were having trouble deciding what to do about it. This article has been helpful in that it is helping us understand what some of the pros and cons are about various procedures. Thanks for sharing!

  17. My wife has a couple of teeth that she is trying to fix up. We aren’t sure how to go about doing it though so I’ve been online looking up what are options are. Looks like we need to find a good cosmetic dentist that can walk us through how we are going to take care of this problem.

  18. It really is amazing how much progression dentistry has seen over the years! I may end up needing implants and/or bridges because I have terrible teeth. I’m so grateful that I have other options besides dentures!

  19. I must say I am quite appreciative of you taking the time to actually explain the benefits of an implant vs. a bridge. I have not found the distinction on other dental articles online. My wife had to get a tooth pulled awhile back, so we are looking into getting an implant, I am just not sure how much it will cost. In any event, thank you for addressing some questions I actually had on dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry as a whole.

  20. Dental practices haven’t changed much over the years, but the technology that it used has changed. One example is that of fake teeth. I’ve read that fake teeth used to be made out of wood, but that might not be entirely true. If they did do this, I’m glad that they don’t do this since wood would eventually rot away from being in your mouth.

  21. I had no idea that cosmetic dentistry had changed so much over the years. Much like Washington, I’m sure I’d complain if I had to wear dentures from his era too! Glad to see that dentistry is moving forward in both practicality and aesthetics. Thanks for sharing!

  22. It’s really incredible to read about the evolution of dentistry like this. Not only has dentistry come a very long way, but it’s amazing that people even bothered with it so long ago. I know I’ll eventually need to get a few dental implants because of some damaged teeth. I’m very glad that I have that option instead of going for full dentures like George Washington!

  23. I’ve been wanting to learn more about the cosmetic dental field and how it works. It’s cool to see how its changed and improved over the years. I’m interested to see how this all will change in the up coming years.

  24. I think it’s interesting that there are writings about dentistry that are so old. I would have never guessed that dentistry was even done back then. I really like how far dentistry has come, even in the past few decades. I’m really glad we have such good technology and practices that can make our lives so much more comfortable. Thanks for the education!

  25. I can agree that we have come a long way in all kinds of treatments. My mom used to have the metal amalgam crowns and fillings. She get them replaced with the new composites and I think it’s great we don’t have to have the metal look anymore.

  26. I can’t imagine what it would look like it we still used gld foil for cavities. I have had a lot of fillings so my mouth would be covered in gold.

  27. Thanks a lot for sharing this useful and attractive information and I will be waiting for other interesting posts from you in the nearest future. keep it up.

  28. It was cool to read how cosmetic dentistry developed. I’ve heard that the history of dentistry is quite interesting and it would seem I’d heard right. There’re so many fun facts that you can learn from history.

  29. I like that you said that most people would rather not have any gaps in their teeth. If I lost a tooth then I would definitely feel self-conscious about my smile. It might be a good idea to get your tooth replace if you don’t like the look of it.

  30. […] have gone from looking for basic hygienic health to now looking for better and whiter smiles. The following are just a couple ways cosmetic dentistry has evolved over time. – From metal fillings to tooth-colored composites. One of the oldest records of metal […]

  31. Thank you for your article. Prove that dental technology is improving all the time.
    Well written article reflecting most current up to date information in the dental world

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