A Brief Look at Gold in Dentistry Throughout History
Most of us know that dentists have been using gold to repair teeth for quite some time, but what you may not know is that records show that the Etruscans were using gold to make dental appliances as far back as the 7th century B.C. Records and archaeological finds show that they were using gold wire to hold replacement teeth that came from calves or occasionally from adult cows in place. The first know book that was printed on dentistry, printed in Leipzig in 1530, was found to recommend that gold leaf could be used to fill cavities. Further studies have found that gold is one of the most bio-compatible metals making it the perfect metal to place in the human mouth. Not only is it bio-compatible, but it is easily shaped when heated and hardens into a corrosion resistant material once it has cooled down.
There are several different forms of gold that can be used in dental work such as pure gold as a foil and powder or what is known as "mat gold," which are crystalline flakes of gold. It can be used as wrought alloys to make gold wires or plates, as casting alloys used in the making of caps and fillings or as a gold alloy solder used to hold the wires that are used to make braces in place. Gold leaf can be compressed into different sized pellets that the dentist can then use to fill cavities with a permanent filling that will not corrode or discolor over time. Often this is done using a small mallet or a specially designed compressor.
This type of repair is reserved for areas of the teeth that are not typically exposed to much wear and tear as the gold is relatively soft and malleable; however, it is highly resistant to the acids contained in human saliva. Because gold in its purest form is so soft it is most often used as an alloy in dental work, these alloys can be a blend of gold and one of the following, platinum, palladium and silver, copper or zinc. The intent is that the alloy still be malleable enough for the dentist to be able to work with it and shape, yet be strong enough to stand up to heavy usage without tarnishing or being affected by corrosion. Such alloys are used to create dental appliances such as bridges, crowns and inlays.