The History of Dental Amalgams

According to timelines from the American Dental Association,1-4 long-term events brought the use of dental amalgam into the American population, but the material has been used in other cultures since very early times. During the middle ages a medical text in China mentions the use of “silver paste,” as a type of amalgam. Hyson JM (2006), cited its appearance in the Chinese materia medica of Su Kung back in 659 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty. Hyson points out that in 1528, amalgam was recommended by a physician in Germany as a filling material.1

In an ADA timeline,4 there is mention of the dates 1833-1850 – as the introduction of an amalgam filling material in the United States under the name Royal Mineral Succedaneum. Two brothers, who originated from France, were cast as charlatans whose unscrupulous methods spark the “amalgam wars,” within the dental profession over the use of amalgam fillings. Mercury, even in early times, has been termed “liquid silver” and some hazards in using/handling the material have been known. Workers in the felt hat industry at one-time dipped furs into a mercury liquid to soften the furs. Inhalation of the vapors produced tremors, loss of teeth, difficulty walking and mental instability.1