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Although the endodontic specialty is relatively new, endodontic procedures have been performed for more than 2,000 years. A skull dating back to the second or third century B.C. was found in a desert in Israel; one tooth contained a bronze wire that may have been used to treat an infected pulp.

Before the modern era, dentists cauterized the pulp or covered it with protective coatings such as gold foil. In the early 19th century, dentists attempted to kill the nerves in the pulp by applying arsenic and morphine.

In the 20th-century, advances in endodontics included X-rays for diagnosis, electric pulp testers to determine whether a pulp is dead, and antiseptics to eliminate bacteria in the root canal. Effective anesthesia also has allowed dentists to make root canal treatment more comfortable for the patient.

In the present day, endodontists take advantage of many technological advances. They may use ultrasonic files to clean out the root canal. New combinations of metals, such as nickel-titanium alloys, are used to make endodontic files. Digital radiography offers immediate viewing of X-ray images on computer screens and exposes patients to a lower radiation dose.

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