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What Are Gold Dental Fillings?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Feb 09, 2024
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Gold dental fillings are gold-based compounds used to plug and seal the hollow area left when a decayed tooth is reamed out. Most dental fillings made of gold are actually made of a composite of gold along with some other metals. When pure gold is used in a filling, it is called a direct gold filling. There are many advantages and disadvantages to using a gold dental filling.

When a tooth has a cavity, or a hole in the tooth caused by decay, a dentist will drill away the rotten enamel and dentin and the tooth will be filled with a hard material. This material can be gold, silver, or a composite resin. Regardless of the type of material, the filling can be shaped inside the tooth so that it feels and works just like the original tooth.

Gold is actually a fairly soft malleable metal. Due to this, gold alone is not a good choice as a dental filling. Many people, however, like the look of gold and want it to be used in their fillings. To strengthen this metal, gold used in dental fillings is combined with several different types of metals, such as zinc, platinum, and palladium. This allows the gold dental fillings to appear as pure gold but gain the strength of these other hard metals.

In some cases, pure gold will be used in gold dental fillings. When this is the case, the filling is called a direct gold dental filling. These pure gold fillings are usually placed in the mouth only in areas where the teeth do not experience much pressure, such as the canines or premolars.

There are a few advantages to gold dental fillings. These fillings, when mixed with other strong metals, are extremely firm and reliable, lasting 10 years or longer. The gold composites are also very similar to the natural hardness of teeth. This means that when a gold filling rubs against another tooth, it will not wear away the opposing tooth any more than a normal tooth. Finally, may people like the shine of the gold set against their tooth.

Two disadvantages to gold dental fillings are the cost of the gold and galvanic shock. Gold fillings are often about 10 times more expensive than a regular, white resin filling. Galvanic shock is a rare phenomenon that happens when a gold filling is placed in a tooth next to a tooth with a silver filling. Occasionally when this occurs, the interplay of the two metals and the saliva will produce a shooting pain that has been likened to biting down on a piece of aluminum foil.

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Discussion Comments
By Fa5t3r — On Apr 15, 2014

@MrsPramm - It's not common to have gold in your mouth these days, so I don't think the average person who puts in a gold filling would have to worry much about that.

On the other hand, people do seem to put more emphasis on mouth jewelry these days, so maybe it will become common again.

By MrsPramm — On Apr 15, 2014

@pastanaga - As it says in the article, there is always the option of putting gold into places where they aren't going to come under pressure. And if the gold is mixed with other metals, they make it quite a bit stronger.

I know that sometimes it was a method for carrying your wealth as well. I've heard stories of people who have donated their gold teeth to a good cause when they didn't have anything else to give.

And, of course, the Nazis were infamous for removing gold teeth, either before or after they killed their victims.

I guess, in the end, that's the reason I wouldn't want to have gold in my mouth. I'd rather my teeth only had value to me and not to anyone else ruthless enough to get hold of them.

By pastanaga — On Apr 14, 2014

When you see people in movies or in books bite down on a gold piece, what they are doing is testing that the metal is soft. If it's soft enough that teeth can make a mark, that means that it's real gold.

The fact that gold is soft enough for that to be one of the ways of checking authenticity kind of suggests to me that it wouldn't make the best filling material for teeth. If you can bite down on it only once and change its shape, chewing is going to end up destroying it.

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