Gold is one of the oldest materials used in dentistry and has been used for thousands of years to help restore teeth.
Gold has many advantages for restoring teeth: it’s biocompatible, meaning there’s an extremely small chance the body would react to it. It’s not considered to be toxic to the body, resists corrosion, and is durable and versatile.
Although the demand for gold used in dentistry has dwindled, it’s still used today. When is gold used for smiles?
For Smaller Cavities
The use of pure gold in dentistry is rare; typically, it’s mixed with other metals to form what’s called gold alloy. However, pure gold is occasionally used for very small cavities in the mouth. Gold fillings also last the longest of all the filling materials available. As a result of this and other factors, gold tends to be one of the more expensive materials used to restore teeth, so gold isn’t as popular today when there are other dental filling materials available that are less noticeable and less expensive.
Inlays and Onlays
Gold alloy, which is a mixture of gold with other metals including silver, copper, and zinc, is used for inlays and onlays in large cavities.
When tooth decay is too extensive to support a normal filling but not extensive enough for a dental crown, your dentist may use an inlay or an onlay to restore the tooth. Both of these treat larger cavities without dental crowns, appearing as something between a crown and a filling.
While an inlay typically covers the space at the center of the tooth, an onlay may cover the additional sides of the tooth in addition to the center. Onlays are sometimes called partial crowns because of their extensive coverage.
Gold alloy may also be used for dental crowns. There are numerous advantages to using gold for a dental crown as opposed to ceramic:
Gold seals very well, reducing the chance that bacteria would affect your tooth.
Gold requires the smallest amount of healthy tooth tissue to be removed compared to other materials when placing the crown.
Gold is very resistant to corrosion and wear, giving it the potential to last for decades.
Patients tolerate gold very well and tend to not react to it.
Although gold dental crowns are generally only reserved for teeth that are in the back of the mouth, some people don’t mind having a noticeable gold tooth and will opt for a gold crown in the front of their mouth.
Gold certainly has its advantages when used in modern dentistry, although it’s not as popular today as it was even decades ago. Dentists still use gold for the appropriate applications in dentistry to help protect and restore teeth, especially for fillings, inlays and onlays, and dental crowns.
If you’re curious about the advantages of using gold to restore your smile, talk to your dentist about why this material would be used and if it’s right for you!