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Antiquity Of Tin And Medical Use
Dealing With Sensitive Cavities
Discoloration Of Tin And Decomposition Of Food
Fibrous And Textile Metallic Filling
History Of The Use Of Tin Foil Pre 1850
History Of Tin Foil In The Era 1845-1895
Lining The Cavity And Filling Root Canals
Opinions On Tin Foil And Reasons For Using
Starting The Filling

Tin Foil And Its Combinations For Filling

History Of Tin Foil In The Era 1845-1895

"Besides gold, the only material which can be used with any hope of
permanent success is tin foil. Some dentists call it silver, and a
tooth which cannot be filled with it cannot be filled with anything else
so as to stop decay and make it last very long. It can be used only in
the back teeth, as its dark color renders it unsuitable for those in
front. When the general health is good, and the teeth little predisposed
to decay, this metal will preserve them as effectually perhaps as gold;
but where the fluids of the mouth are much disordered it oxidizes
rapidly, and instead of preserving the teeth rather increases their
tendency to decay." (Dr. Robert Arthur, Baltimore, 1845, "A Popular
Treatise on the Diseases of the Teeth.")

The false idea that a patient must have good health, normal oral fluids,
and teeth little predisposed to decay, or else if filled with tin the
decay would be hastened, originated with a German or English author, and
has been handed down in works published since early in 1800. It even
crept into American text-books as late as 1860, the authors of which now
disbelieve it.

"Tin undergoes but little change in the mouth, and may be used with
comparative safety." ("Surgical, Mechanical, and Medical Treatment of
the Teeth," James Robinson, London, 1846.)

"Tin is soft, and can be easily and compactly introduced, but it is more
easily acted on by the secretions of the mouth than gold and is less
durable, but in the mouth of a healthy person it will last for years.
Still, inasmuch as it cannot be depended on in all cases, we are of
the opinion that it should never be employed." ("The Human Teeth,"
James Fox, London, 1846.)

The italics are ours. Every metal has a limited sphere of usefulness,
and it should not be expected that tin will contend single-handed
against all the complicated conditions which caries presents.

"Of all the cheaper materials, I consider tin the best by far, and
regard its use fully justifiable in deciduous teeth and in large
cavities, as it is not every man who can afford the expense of nine
leaves of gold and four hours of labor by a dentist on a single tooth."
(Dr. Edward Taylor, Dental Register of the West, 1847.)

"I consider tin good for any cavity in a chalky tooth: it will save them
better than anything else." (Dr. Holmes, 1848.)

"Tin can be used as a temporary filling, or as a matter of economy. It
may be rendered impervious to air and dampness, but it corrodes in most
mouths, unless it comes in contact with food in chewing, and then it
rapidly wears away; it does not become hard by packing or under
pressure, and that it forms a kind of a union with the tooth is
ridiculous." (Dr. J. D. White, 1849, Dental News Letter.)

"A tin plug will answer a very good purpose in medium and large cavities
for six years. Much imposition has been practiced with it, and it is not
made as malleable as it should and can be. An inferior article is
manufactured which possesses brilliancy and resembles silver. This is
often passed off for silver foil. No harm comes from this deception
except the loss of the amount paid above the price for tin; but even
this inferior tin foil is better than silver." ("The Practical Family
Dentist," Dewitt C. Warner, New York, 1853.)

"Tin made into leaves is employed as a stopping material; with
sufficient experience it can be elaborated into the finest lines and
cracks, and against almost the weakest walls, and teeth are sometimes
lost with gold that might have been well preserved with tin. I saw an
effective tin stopping in a tooth of Cramer's, the celebrated musical
composer, which had been placed there thirty-five years ago by Talma,
of Paris." ("The Odontalgist," by J. Paterson Clark, London, 1854.)

Refer to what the same author said in 1836.

"Tin is the best substitute for gold, and can often be used in badly
shaped cavities where gold cannot." (Prof. Harris, 1854.)

"Tin is better than any mixture of metals for filling teeth." (Professor
Tomes, London, 1859.)

In 1860 a writer said that "such a change may take place in the mouth as
to destroy tin fillings which had been useful for years, and that tin
was not entirely reliable in any case; it must not be used in a tooth
where there is another metal, nor be put in the bottom of a cavity and
covered with gold, for the tin will yield, and when fluids come in
contact with the metals, chemical action is induced, and the tin is
oxidized. Similar fillings in the same mouth may not save the teeth
equally well. Filling is predicated on the nature of decay, for only on
correct diagnosis can a proper filling-material be selected."

Reviewing the foregoing statement, we believe that a change may take
place in the mouth which will destroy gold fillings (or the
tooth-structure around them) much oftener than those of tin. It is now
every-day practice to put tin into the same tooth with another metal; if
the bottom of a cavity is filled with tin properly packed, it will not
yield when completed with gold, and if the gold is tight, the oral
fluids cannot come in contact with both metals and produce chemical
action or oxidation; similar fillings of gold in the same mouth do not
save the teeth equally well. Should we expect more of tin in this
respect, or discard it because it is not always better than gold?

In Article V of the "New Departure Creed," Dr. Flagg says, "Skillful and
scrupulous dentists fill with tin covered with gold, thereby preventing
decay, pulpitis, death of the pulp, and abscess, and thus save the

In 1862 Mr. Hockley, of London, mentions tin for filling, and the same
year Dr. Zeitman, of Germany, recommended it as a substitute for gold,
particularly for poor people.

"Is tin foil poisonous? If not, why are our brethren so reluctant to use
it? Is it nauseous? If not, why not employ it? Will it not preserve the
teeth when properly used? Then why not encourage the use of it? Does its
name signify one too common in the eyes of the people, on account of its
daily use in the tin shops, or do patients murmur when the fee is
announced, because it is nothing but tin? Is it not better than amalgam,
although the patient may believe it less costly? Eleven good plugs,
twenty-nine years old, in one mouth demonstrates that tin will last as
long as gold in many cases." (F. A. Brewer, Dental Cosmos, 1863.)

"So much tin foil is used for personal and domestic purposes that the
following is important: Ordinary tin foil by chemical analysis contained
88.93 per cent. of lead; embossed foil, 76.57 per cent.; tea foil, 88.66
per cent.; that which was sold for the pure article, 34.62 per cent. Tin
foil of above kind is made by inclosing an ingot of lead between two
ingots of tin, and rolling them out into foil, thus having the tin on
the outside of the lead." (Dr. J. H. Baldock, Dental Cosmos, 1867.)

The author used tin foil for filling the teeth of some of his
fellow-students at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in 1867.

"Amalgam should never be used in teeth which can be filled with tin, and
most of them can be." (Dr. H. M. Brooker, Montreal, 1870.)

"I have used tin extensively, and found it more satisfactory than
amalgam. Dentists ignore tin, because it is easier to use amalgam, less
trouble. This is not right. If your preceptor has told you that amalgam
is as good as tin, and he thinks so, let him write an article in its
defense. Not one dentist in ten who has come into the profession within
the last ten years knows how to make a tin filling, and only a few of
the older ones know how to make a good one." (Dr. H. S. Chase,
Missouri Dental Journal, 1870.)

"Among the best operators a more general use of tin would produce
advantageous results, while among those whose operations in gold are not
generally successful an almost exclusive use of tin would bring about a
corresponding quantum of success to themselves and patients, as against
repeated failures with gold. The same degree of endeavor which lacked
success with gold, if applied to tin would produce good results and save
teeth. A golden shower of ducats realized for gold finds enthusiastic
admirers, but a dull gray shower for tin work is not so admirable, even
though many of the teeth were no better for the gold as gold, nor so
well off in the ultimate as with tin." (Dr. E. W. Foster, Dental
Cosmos, 1873.)

In 1873 Dr. Royal Varney said, "I am heartily in favor of tin; it is too
much neglected by our first-class operators."

"Tin stops the ends of the tubuli and interglobular spaces which are
formed in the teeth of excessive vascular organization; if more teeth
were filled with tin, and a smaller number with futile attempts with
gold, people would be more benefited." (Dr. Castle, Dental Cosmos,

"If cavities in teeth out of the mouth are well filled with tin, and put
into ink for three days, no discoloration of the tooth (when split open)
can be seen." (W. E. Driscoll, Dental Cosmos, 1874.)

"Tin makes an hermetical filling, and resists the disintegrating action
of the fluids of the mouth. If an operator can preserve teeth for
fifteen dollars with tin, which would cost fifty dollars with gold,
ought he not to do so? Upon examination of the cavities from which
oxidized plugs have been removed, these oxids will be found to have had
a reflex effect upon the dentin; the walls and floors will be discolored
and thoroughly indurated, and to a great degree devoid of sensitiveness,
although they were sensitive when filled. Tin is valuable in case of
youth, nervousness, impatience, high vitality of dentin, low
calcification, and low pecuniosity." (Dr. H. Gerhart, Pennsylvania
Journal of Dental Science, 1875.)

"Tin Foil for Filling Teeth." Essay by Dr. H. L. Ambler, read before the
Ohio State Dental Society. (Dental Register of the West, 1875.)

"Some say that if tin is the material the cavity must be filled with,
that it must be filled entirely with it, but advanced teachings show
differently." (Dr. D. D. Smith, Dental Cosmos, October, 1878.)

"Frail teeth can be saved better with tin than with gold. I never saw a
devitalized pulp under a tin filling." (Dr. Dixon, Dental Cosmos, May,

"Tin may be used as a base for proximate fillings in bicuspids or
molars, in third molars, in children's permanent molars, in the
temporary teeth, and in any cavity where the filling is not
conspicuous." (Dr. A. W. Harlan, Independent Practitioner, 1884.)

"Tin in blocks, mats, and tapes is used like non-cohesive gold foil, but
absence of cohesion prevents the pieces from keeping their place as well
as the gold." ("American System of Dentistry," 1887.)

This is virtually saying that there is cohesion of non-cohesive gold,
and that for this reason it keeps its place better than tin. It has
always been supposed that there was no cohesion of layers of
non-cohesive gold, and as the tin is used on the non-cohesive plan,
therefore one keeps its place as well as the other. We claim that
generally in starting a filling, tin will keep its place better than
cohesive or non-cohesive gold, because it combines some of the
cohesiveness of the former with the adaptability of the latter.

"Tin will save teeth in many cases as well or better than gold. Put a
mat of tin at the cervical wall of proximate cavities in molars and
bicuspids, and it makes a good filling which has a therapeutic effect on
tooth-structure that prevents the recurrence of caries, probably because
the infiltration of tin oxid into the tubuli is destructive to animal
life. Where the filling is not exposed to mechanical force, there is no
material under heavens which will preserve the teeth better." (Dr.
Beach, Dental Cosmos, 1889.)

"I extracted a tooth in which I found a cavity of decay which had
extended toward a tin filling, but stopped before reaching it; on
examining the tooth-structure between the new cavity and the tin
filling, it was found to be very hard, indicating apparently that there
had been some action produced by the presence of the tin." (Dr. G.
White, Dental Cosmos, 1889.)

"Pure tin in form of foil is used as a filling and also in connection
with non-cohesive gold." (Mitchell's "Dental Chemistry," 1890.)

"Tin ranks next to gold as a filling-material." (Essig's "Dental
Metallurgy," 1893.)

"Tin is good for children's teeth, when gold or amalgam is not
indicated. It can be used in cavities which are so sensitive to thermal
changes as to render the use of gold or amalgam unwise, but it can only
be used in cavities with continuous walls, and should be introduced in
the form of cylinders or ropes, with wedge-shaped pluggers having sharp
deep serrations, thus depending upon the wedging or interdigitating
process to hold the filling in the cavity." ("Operative Technics," Prof.
T. E. Weeks, 1895.)

"Tin for filling teeth has been almost superseded by amalgam, although
among the older practitioners (those who understand how to manipulate
it) tin is considered one of the best, if not the very best metal known
for preserving the teeth from caries. In consequence of its lack of the
cohesive property, it is introduced and retained in a cavity upon the
wedging principle, the last piece serving as a keystone or anchor to the
whole filling. Each piece should fill a portion of the cavity from the
bottom to the top, with sufficient tin protruding from the cavity to
serve for thorough condensation of the surface, and the last piece
inserted should have a retaining cavity to hold it firmly in place. The
foil is prepared by folding a whole or half-sheet and twisting it into a
rope, which is then cut into suitable lengths for the cavity to be
filled." (Frank Abbott, "Dental Pathology and Practice," 1896.)

"Forty-three years ago, for a young lady fourteen years of age, I
filled with non-cohesive gold all the teeth worth filling with this
metal; the rest I filled with tin. Three years after that there was not
a perfect gold filling among the whole number, and yet the tin fillings
were just as good as when made. The explanation as to why the tin
fillings lasted so much longer than the gold ones was, that there must
have been something in the tin that had an affinity for the teeth and
the elements that formed the dentin, by which some compound was formed,
or else it must have been in the adaptation." (Dr. H. Gerhart, Dental
Cosmos, January, 1897.)

Next: Opinions On Tin Foil And Reasons For Using

Previous: History Of The Use Of Tin Foil Pre 1850

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