Changes in Cosmetic Dentistry over the Years
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.