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How root canal treatment has changed: Before and after modern anesthetics

Beautiful Smile with TeethYou've heard stories about root canal treatment, and they aren't pretty. You've heard enough to make you nervous, or even downright frightened, if a dentist utters the words "root canal." Of course, upon seeing the expression of terror on your face, those words are usually followed by, "Don't worry, it won't hurt." Naturally, you might have a few doubts.

As the saying goes, where there's smoke, there's fire, meaning that where there is a rumor, there is some shred of truth behind it. That isn't always the case (just ask Will Smith, who has been reported dead numerous times recently). The pain associated with root canal therapy isn't much more real, although it does have origins. To understand, we need to start with a bit of history.

The roots of the root canal procedure

It is difficult to say when the first procedure was performed, because dentistry (in very primitive forms) dates back to ancient times. However, in modern history, root canal treatment has been traced to the late 1700s. It became more common in the early 1800s, when dentists experimented with various materials for filling the pulp cavity, such as lead, wood, molasses, and sparrow droppings. If that isn't frightening enough, consider this: Nitrous oxide was not discovered until 1844, and procaine (Novocaine) was not discovered until 1905. All of the dental procedures than had been performed before that – Ouch!

Taking the pain out of saving teeth

Over the next century, root canal treatment, like other dental and medical procedures, gradually became more effective, more comfortable, and more precise. In the early 1900s, there was still considerable debate about the cause of infection, and the treatment techniques varied widely. With the development of technology and modern scientific research, things advanced much more rapidly. Specific tools and standardized techniques were developed. Accurate diagnostics, reliable treatments, and better anesthetics were developed.

The moral of the story? Today's root canal treatment is so advanced, predictable, and comfortable that it barely resembles the process that was used a few generations ago. It is even better today than a few years ago. Unfortunately, public opinion did not evolve so quickly. Surveys have found that a large percentage of the population considers it a painful treatment. They also found that the majority of those people haven't actually had root canal therapy.

For more information or appointment scheduling, call Big Smile Dental in Chicago at 773-772-8400.

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