Authors: Bellizzi R, Cruse WP.
Title: A historic review of endodontics, 1689-1963, part 3.
Journal: J Endod
Date: May 1980
Citation: 6(5):576-80
Category: History of Endodontics
Evidence-based Ranking: 5
Purpose/Objectives: This is the last of a three-part series on the endodontic historical perspective

Review: The focal infection (FI) era (1909-1937). In 1909 Rosenow developed the theory of FI showing streptococci were present in many diseased organs and capable of spreading through the blood to a distant site causing infection. An English physician, William Hunter, advocated and directly applied FI toward dentistry. For the next 25 years the focal infection theory gained favor and many teeth treatable by today’s root canal standards were extracted. In 1913 Rosenow developed the theory of elective affinity of organisms to tissues, believing organisms could pass from an apical granuloma to reach the peripheral organs, and fueling the FI advocates. Several dentists like Callahan, Grove, and Howe did early studies looking to seal the canal and eliminate bacteria. In 1920 Hermann began using CaOH for filling root canals, and in 1925 Rickert proposed using a cement with gutta percha filling that Lentulo used with his rotary paste inserter. It was in the 1930s the pendulum began to swing toward a more conservative approach to root canal therapy with more universally used radiographic techniques, bacterial culturing, and a more pronounced emphasis on diagnosis and aseptic techniques. In 1931 Rickert and Dixon began a series of experiments supporting the “hollow tube effect.” In 1933 Jasper introduced silver points in dentistry. The scientific era (1937-1963). In 1937 Logan’s belief the presence of microorganisms did not necessarily imply the presence of infection helped place the FI theory in its proper perspective, and that some bacterial presence is normal. In 1943 a group of 20 men formed the AAE. Harry B. Johnston has been credited with the term endodontia. In 1946 the first JOE was published as the first journal limited to endodontics. In 1956 the ABE was organized. By 1963 more than 200 dentists in the US were limiting their practice to endodontics, and because of the growth and development of the field, in that year the ADA recognized endodontics as a special area of dentistry. The first diplomate exams began 2 years later in 1965.

Reviewer’s Comments: The article concludes the three-part series with this old, Italian proverb “Chi lascia la via vecchia per al nuova, se quel che perde e non sa quel che trova.” This translates to “whoever forsakes the old ways for the new knows what he is losing but not what he will find.” A history lesson never hurts.