Westchester September 2018


The Long History of Dental Fillings

When archaeologists uncovered a 13,000-year-old skeleton at Riparo Fredian, near Lucca, Italy, in 2017, they were surprised to see deep holes in both of the upper central incisors. The holes reached into the pulp chamber, and additional research determined that they were made intentionally with some sort of hand-held tool. The American Journal of Physical Anthropology published a study that suggests this ancient person, dubbed Fredian 5, may have suffered from infected tooth pulp and had it scraped out to relieve the pain. However, the most interesting aspect of this find was the fact that traces of bitumen, a tar-like substance, remained inside the tooth cavities. Fredian 5 provides the earliest evidence of dental fillings. “Dr. Graffeo was fantastic. The more difficult procedure went very smoothly, and recovery was better than expected. The doctor makes you feel confident and like you’re in good hands. I will go to him for my next two boys’ wisdom teeth removals!” –Anne R. “Wonderful experience, great doctors, perfect staff. Recommend highly!” –Karin K.

Humans were using dental fillings long before the advent of modern dentistry. For thousands of years, ancient people filled damaged teeth with malleable substances like beeswax, both before and after death. But fillings wouldn’t become more sophisticated until later. In early dentistry, dentists used whatever metal they could get their hands on to fill teeth. Poor patients ended up with tin while wealthy patients enjoyed gold or silver fillings. In 1819, an amalgam filling was invented by Joseph Bell using tin, silver, copper, and liquid mercury. This material was cheap, easy to use, and quickly adopted by dentists everywhere. Unfortunately, the high levels of mercury in early amalgam fillings proved to be deadly,

and numerous patients reported suffering from cancer or multiple sclerosis as a result. By 1840, the American Society of Dental Surgeons had denounced the use of amalgams due to risk of mercury poisoning, and dentists worked to make fillings safer for everyone. Modern amalgam fillings — often incorrectly called “silver fillings” by patients — still contain traces of mercury, but only at very low levels approved by the FDA. Today’s patients can also choose from materials like gold, porcelain, or resin, and modern techniques can be used to make the fillings look completely natural. That’s a pretty impressive leap forward from bitumen and beeswax.


“I am giving Dr. Graffeo the highest review possible and would recommend him for all of my family members and friends. He is meticulous in his examination of your dental issue. I had him perform two separate dental implants, and both turned out to be perfect with no subsequent problems or issues.

I have numerous friends who had problems with loose implants. That will never be an issue if you have Dr. Graffeo as your surgeon. I feel very

fortunate to have had Dr. Graffeo as my surgeon!” –Dennis O.




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