Dental health matters: The heavy-metal generation

There are many people who had most of their dentistry completed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Dentists often call them “The Heavy-Metal Generation”! Have you ever wondered why they had so many more fillings, crowns and extractions than the younger members of their family? Trevor Bigg explains...

Why were so many fillings placed?

There may have been many causes, but the most common were:

  • Many more sweets and sugary foods were eaten after the war

There are still many people alive today who remember sugar rationing after the war and what it was like when the rationing was lifted in 1953. In fact, the British diet was extremely healthy when sugar was rationed, with a reduction in the decay rate of the nation’s teeth. But it was only natural that when sweets became readily available, the public would make up for lost time and this had a big effect in increasing the number of cavities in our mouths.

  • Dentists placing unnecessary fillings 

Until the last three decades, the practice of dentistry was based on the work of an American dentist, Dr G V Black, and his textbook published in 1896! The standard filling material at the time was silver amalgam, retained by cutting undercuts into the enamel, made more destructive as Dr Black insisted that the filling should be extended into the area next to the decay. This was meant to prevent further decay, but the end result was a much larger filling.  Eventually the larger filling broke and was replaced by a crown, and if this fractured it often led to the extraction of the tooth.

  • No fluoride in toothpaste

This may be the single most important factor in reducing tooth decay. For many years the link between fluoride and low tooth decay rates has been well established. Fluoride has been placed in toothpastes since the 1950s, but became more popular in the following decades. As soon as we eat any food containing sugars and starches, bacteria in the mouth convert this into an acid that starts to attack the surface of the tooth breaking down the enamel prisms.  Fluoride reverses this procedure and even strengthens the new enamel by making bigger, stronger prisms.

So what about modern dentistry?

A modern dentist aims to treat their patient with the least destructive procedure available.  Early decay is treated by increasing the fluoride and improving the oral hygiene in the mouth. If decay continues, a plastic filling is placed to restore the tooth. This relies on bonding to enamel, so a much smaller cavity is made, reducing the risk of further fracture later.

If you want more information about the contents of the article, click here, or contact Penny at Milton Dental Practice: 01993 831396 or email and come to see us for a consultation.

To accompany this article, we are offering a New Patient Examination at the reduced fee of £66.00 (normally £99.00), with x-rays if required, and a free Denplan Examination.