History of Endodontics 2009

Goals and Objectives

  • To guide our understanding of the future of endodontics and the relation of clinical practice to research by examining the past.
  • To be able to place our present practices in an overall perspective with our past.
  • To examine a few salient papers that might be missed in specialized sections of the literature and compare the authors thought processes to those of present day authors.

All Read: Ingle's Endodontics 6th edition pages 36-86


Flagg FG.  Creosote and cotton in fang filling.  Dent Cosmos 1:115-117. 1860


McQuillen JR.  Editorial--Who first filled nerve cavities? Dent Cosmos 3:556-557. 1862.


Wadsworth HN.  Resetting and transplanting teeth. Dent Cosmos 18:577-582. 1876.


Farrar JN.  Radical treatment of alveolar abscess.  Dent Cosmos 22:377-383. 1880.
Talbot ES.  Preparation of nerve canals for treatment and filling. Dent Cosmos 22:527-529. 1880.


Gram CT.  Filling of difficult root canals.  Dent Cosmos 32:751-752. 1890.


Briggs EC. The removal of the tooth pulp by the use of cocaine. Dent Cosmos 34:992-993. 1892.


Morton WJ.  The x ray and its application in dentistry. Dent Cosmos 38:478-486. 1896.


Price WA.  Practical progress in dental skiagraphy. Dental Items of Interest 23:452-472. 1901.


Buckley JP.  The rational treatment of putrescent pulps and their sequellae. Dent Cosmos 48:537-544. 1906.


Curtis IC.  Fifty years of dental science, with its fads and foibles. Dent Cosmos 49:1040-1044. 1907.


Hunter W.  The role of sepsis and antisepsis in medicine. Dent Cosmos. 


Johnson CN.  Shall pulpless teeth be retained?  J Dent Res 1:94-106. 1919.


Blaney JR.  The problem of teaching root canal technic. JADA 11:1187-1196. 1924.


Lyons CJ.  Apicoectomy.  JADA 15:18-21. 1928.


Grove CJ.  The value of the dentinocemental junction in pulp canal srgery. J Dent Res 11:466-468. 1931.


Jasper EA.  Root canal therapy in modern dentistry.  JADA 37:1895-1901. 1936.


Coolidge ED.  Past and present concepts in endodontics.  JADA 61:676-688. 1960.


Ingle JI.  A standardized endodontic technique utilizing newly designed instruments and filling materials.  Oral Surg 14:83-91. 1961.


Grossman LI.  Endodontics: a peep into the past and the future.  Oral Surg 37:599-608. 1974.


Cruse WP, Bellizzi R.  A historical review of endodontics, 1689-1963, part 1. J Endodon 6:495-499. 1980.
Cruse WP, Bellizzi R.  A historical review of endodontics, 1689-1963, part 2. J Endodon 6:532-535. 1980.
Bellizzi R, Cruse WP.  A historical review of endodontics, 1689-1963, part 3. J Endodon 6:576-580. 1980.

JC Baumgartner DDS, MS, PhD

            In a development of a sound philosophy of endodontic practice and rationale for the use of specific types of therapy, we look for support from scientific investigations and from critically evaluated clinical experiences.

            The last few decades has seen an avalanche of literature in the field of endodontics. This explosion of scientific and clinical data has, in some ways, made the practice of endodontics confusing. Coolidge has stated that "just as research opens doors, it also closes doors". It may also be added that there still remains many doors to be opened or closed as the case may be.

            The following is a much abbreviated chronological review of the more significant highlights and low points in the history of endodontics since the first English-language dental textbook was published by Charles Allen in 1687 to the recognition of endodontics as a specialty by the ADA in 1963. Hopefully, this outline may help you place more recent developments in the field of endodontics in proper prospectus.

1687    Charles Allen discussed transplantation in the first English-language dental text.

1700    Leeuwenhoek identified the source of the tooth worm as "worm infected cheese".

1728    Pierre Fauchard wrote The Surgeon Dentist in which he described pulp extirpation using a trepan and the use of oil of cloves-opium for pain relief.

1756    Phillip Pfaff dentist to Frederick the Great used gold or lead for pulp capping.

1757    Bourdet filled root canals with gold or lead before replanting the teeth.

1766    Robert Woofendale of NY alleviated pain by cauterizing the pulp and then stuffed the open canal with cotton.

1800    Frederick Hirsch used percussion as a diagnostic aid.

1809    Edward Hudson of Philadelphia is credited with placing the first root canal fillings.

1819    Charles Bew of London described pulp circulation as through the apex then dental wall to the periodontal ligament.

1821    Leonard Koeker of Philadelphia popularized pulp capping with lead.

1829    Fitch promoted "vitalistic theory" that stated that the crown was nourished by the pulp but the root by both the pulp and the periodontal membrane.

1830    Reichenbach introduced use of creosote in canals.

1834    Runge introduced use of phenol in canals.

1836    Spooner of NY used arsenic to devitalize pulp before removing it.

1837    Jacob Linderer recommended a narcotic oil to render pulp insensible.

1838    Edwin Maynard of Washington DC developed first root canal instruments.

1847    Hill patented gutta-percha stopping.

1847    Wetzel used arsenous acid for vital pulpotomies.

1851    SP Hullihen described apical trephination.

1857    Watt recommended use of gutta- percha as a root canal filling.

1857    Thomas Rogers reviewed pulp capping techniques. If they failed, prescribed 3 leeches and a laxative.

1864    SC Barnum of NY demonstrated the use of rubber dam.

1865    EL Clarke of Dubuque filled roots with hot baseplate gutta percha.

1867    GA Bowman of Missouri demonstrated the use of gutta-percha points to fill root canals.

1867    JF Hodson designed a set of rubber dam clamps.

1867    Joseph Lister introduced idea of antiseptic treatment.

1867    M'Lain criticized use of creosote-cotton root canal filling. Also recommended removal of all pulp remnants and canal filling when the tooth is asymptomatic.

1867    Magitot used electric current for pulp testing.

1870    GV Black recommended zinc oxychloride for pulp capping for preservation of the pulp.

1873    Adolph Witzel in Germany used phenol to sterilize canals.

1882    Arthur Underwood popularized use of caustic antiseptic agents to sterilize contents of the pulp chamber and canal.

1883    PA Hunter described a 98% success rate using a pulp-capping mixture of English-sparrow droppings and sorghum molasses.

1883    GA Mills would drive a hickory splinter into root canals to extirpate the pulp. This was recommended to avoid the toxic effects of arsenic. M Richmond later used orange wood.

1884    J Farrar reported on the use of root amputation as a treatment technique.

1884    Karl Koller introduced cocaine as an anesthetic. Hall and Halstead used cocaine solutions for dental anesthesia.

1885    GA Bowman introduced chloropercha technique.

1885    Lepkowski introduced Formalin to fix pulp stumps.

1888    WD Miller believed that the decomposed infected pulp caused dental alveolar abscesses. He described the mouth as a focus of infection. Later emphasized by GV Black in 1890.

1889    GV Black tested a number antiseptics and stated "the greater the range of antiseptic value, the more dangerously poisonous the drug".

1890    Funk used a cocaine solution for direct pressure anesthesia on the pulp.

1890    CT Cramm used copper points for the root canal filling.

1891    GV Black emphasized the fact that "septic matter" may be poisonous to periapical tissue in addition to "infectious matter".

1891    AW Harlan stressed the importance of thorough canal debridement and advocated the use of a diffusible root canal antiseptic.

1891    JS Marshall popularized the use of the electric pulp tester.

1891    Otto Walk off recommended chlorophenol to sterilize canals. Later Herman Pring introduced it in the US.

1893    Emil Schreier used a mix of sodium and potassium to clean and disinfect root canals.

1894    JR Callahan used 20-40% sulfuric acid in root canals.

1894    John Wessler (Swedish) recommended "Pulpol" (90% ZnOE) for pulp capping.

1894    Breuer in Vienna is credited with using electrosterilization of canals and ML Rhein brought technique to NY.

1895    WC Roentgen discovered x-rays and Walkoff took first dental x-ray.

1896    Edmund Kells of New Orleans used x-rays to study canals filled with lead wires.

1898    RH Peck tested the toxicity of several medicaments. He recommended continued use of Beechwood Creosote, oil of cloves, oil of bay, Black's 1,2,3 (Cassia, phenol, gualtheria) and warned against stronger drugs.

1899    JP Buckley introduced formocresol as a canal medicament.

1900    Price used the term "blind abscess" to describe a periapical radiolucency with no evidence of clinical drainage.

1901    TW Onderdonk recommended culturing of root canals.

1904    Frank Billings related oral sepsis to endocarditis.

1905    Alfred Einhorn developed Novacaine.

1906    Shepley Part introduced Novacaine to the US.

1908    ML Rhein of NY used a diagnostic wire and x-ray to determine canal length.

1909    EC Rosenow and Frank Billings developed the "Theory of Focal Infection".

1910    William Hunter attacked American dentistry and described the gold crown as "A mausoleum of gold over a mass of sepsis". This helped popularize the "Theory of Focal Infection" that was directed at the pulpless tooth for some 25 years.

1911    JR Callahan advocated his rosin-chloroform technique.

1912    ML Rhein recommended aseptic techniques as a rebuttal to focal infection.

1912    Guildo Fisher published first comprehensive study of root canal anatomy. Callahan and Hess later made major contributions.

1916    Carl Grover showed that toxic chemicals could produce apical lesions.

1919    Coolidge, LaRoche, Appelton and others promoted an aseptic clinical technique and culturing as a scientific method.

1919    Commercial dental x-rays machines are available.

1920    Hermann used Calxyl (calcium hydroxide) to fill canals. By 1930 he used it for pulp capping, pulpotomies and for treating infected canals.

1921    Rosenow (Mayo Clinic) adhered to belief that once a tooth was infected, it was always infected.

1925    UG Rickert recommended the use of sealer with a gutta percha cone.

1925    Lentulo develops his rotary spiral bur for inserting paste.

1926    E Kells recommended leeches for post-treatment pain.

1928    HB Johnson of Atlanta limits his practice to endodontics – Greek en (within) odontus (tooth).

1929    Carl Grove recommends filling to D-C junctions. Also calls for standardization of instruments.

1929    Balint Orban showed microscopic evidence that the pulp has the same cells as other connective tissues.

1931    Rickert and Dixon promote their "Stagnation theory" for unfilled root canals (Hollow Tube Theory).

1933    EA Jasper developed silver points.

1935    Okell and Elliott found bacteremias in 70% of cases following extraction of "pyorrhetic teeth".

1936    Fish and McLean found no bacteremias if sulcus is cauterized first.

1936    Walker recommended the use of sodium hypochlorite as a canal irrigant.

1937    Logan stated that the presence of microorganisms does not imply infection.

1938    Zander and Teuscher used calcium hydroxide for vital pulp capping.

1939    Fred Adams used sulfa drugs in the canals and later penicillin (1944).

1939    Fish separated foci of infection into zones.

1940    Rohmer used calcium hydroxide to cement gutta percha into canals and claimed a cementum-like barrier formed.

1943    American Association of Endodontists was formed.

1943    Grossman recommended irrigation of canals with sodium hypochlorite and peroxide.

1951    Hedman related absence of bacteria in a root canal to status of periapical tissue.

1953    Auerbach reemphasized the importance of thorough canal preparation.

1957    Nygaard Őstby introduced the use of EDTA for canal irrigation.

1959    Sargenti and Richter introduced N2 to American dentistry.

1959    Winkler and Van Amerogen studied root canal flora.

1963    Seltzer, Bender et al questioned the use of culturing as an indicator of when to fill a root canal.

1963    Endodontics is recognized as a specialty by the ADA.


  1. Coolidge, ED. Past and present concepts in endodontics. JADA 61:676-688, 1960.
  2. Grossman, LI. Endodontics: A peep into the past and the future. Oral Surg 37:599-608, 1974.
  3. Del Rio, Carlos. Unpublished material.
  4. Harrison, John. Unpublished material.
  5. Neaverth, E.J. Unpublished material.
  6. Cruse, WP and Bellizzi, R. A historic review of endodontics. 1689-1963, Part 1. J Endod 6(3):495-499.
  7. Cruse, WP and Bellizzi, R. A historic review of endodontics. 1689-1963, Part 2. J Endod 6(4):532-535, Apr. 1980.
  8. Cruse, WP and Bellizzi, R. A historic review of endodontics. 1689-1963, Part 3. J Endod 6(5):576-580, May 1980.
  9. Ingle's Endodontics 6th Edition, Eds. Ingle, Bakland, Baumgartner 2008