A History Lesson for Phoenix on Root Canal Treatment

Sometimes a look at the history of a dental procedure helps us understand and appreciate current care. Root canal therapy is a great example. Possibly the most maligned and feared diagnosis, root canal treatment has actually saved millions of teeth from extraction. It has evolved into a procedure that brings fast relief to a patient in pain. Here is a brief history lesson on root canal treatment from Phoenix dentist, Dr. Frost.


“Endodontics” is a specialized area of dentistry concerning the study and treatment of dental pulp; nerves and blood vessels inside a tooth. The term is derived from Greek words meaning literally that – “inside” and “tooth.” Root canal treatment is a primary focus of endodontics.

A History of Saving Teeth

When a tooth is damaged by trauma (a crack or breakage) or a deep area of decay, the bacterial infection reaches the nerve housed in the root canal. Inflammation and infection build pressure, further irritating the nerve. Discomfort may occur gradually and intermittently, or you could wake with an acute toothache and facial swelling.

You may think that, prior to the advanced dental techniques available today, extraction was the only option. However, there is a great deal of historical confirmation that early physicians and dentists worked hard to find a way to save abscessed teeth.

A third-century B.C. skull found in the Negev Desert in Israel included a bronze wire in one of the teeth. Researchers believe it was used to treat infected pulp and consider this the earliest evidence of endodontics. First-century A.D. evidence shows efforts to drain root canals for relief of pain and pressure. Over the next several centuries dentists expanded their knowledge of endodontics and tried various crude methods of treating it – including using asbestos as a protective covering!

Modern Endodontics

With the evolution of X-ray technology and effective anesthetics in the early 1900s root canal treatment made huge advances. Endodontic instruments and materials for sealing the treated canal were developed. Sterilization techniques improved dramatically. Treatment became much more standardized as dentists shared knowledge. Today, from the patient’s perspective, root canal treatment feels like getting a filling (it just takes a little longer). Results are more successful and predictable than ever before.

Dr. Frost hopes you never require root canal treatment. If you do, however, isn’t it nice to know you have an alternative to extraction, from an experienced dentist? Call Biltmore Dental Center today at (602) 704-0659 to become a patient.