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The use of gold as a dental filler, and in dental practice, is an art almost as old as civilization. For instance, the Etruscans used gold wires in order to hold in teeth that they had transplanted from cows or calves, as replacements for damaged teeth. A dentistry book from Germany in the 1500’s recommended that cavities be filled with gold.
Gold is advantageous for dentistry because it can be mixed with various allows easily, and it is resistant to corrosion. Gold is a relatively stable and inert metal. It is bio-compatible. That is, it can be placed in contact with the body without any harm to one’s health. Moreover, gold is malleable: it is easy to melt and mold, so that it can be used for many various processes and product.
Dentistry makes use of different kinds of gold products. Pure metal foil, powder, and flake-like crystals, or mat gold, are used in dentistry regularly. Wrought alloys, or gold mixed with metals, can be used in plates and wires. Gold alloy solders and casting alloys are also common. When pure gold is used, the leaf is compressed into small pellets and packed into the tiny spaces or cavities in teeth. These fillings are compressed through a mallet or a condenser. When used as a restorative filler, gold metal resists oral fluids. However, because gold is also soft, it must be used in cavities that are not easily subject to wear. This technique has lost popularity in modern dentistry.
In modern dentistry, gold is mixed in alloys with metals such as silver, palladium, or platinum, along with amounts of copper and zinc. These allows still possess a good amount of malleability, but they can be strong and stiff. They are also resistant to wear, tear, and corrosion. Such allows are useful for fashioning bridges, crowns, and inlays, and will vary in gold content depending on the use. For instance, crowns or bridges can contain as much as about 78% gold.
Soldering is also an important technique in dentistry, as it is carried out to connect individual components. Solder alloys will contain gold, copper, or silver, as well as trace amounts of nickel, tin, or zinc.
The American Dental Association, along with other international dental associations, have standards for the use of gold in dental alloys. Changing the compositions of the alloys also allows them to be used for a wide variety of processes. Newer allows also contain other elements in order to change properties of the gold dental component, such as its hardness or elongation, and to control its response to changes in temperature.