The ability to control pain is a critical part of all dental procedures. Throughout history, dental professionals have used a variety of methods for dental procedures, from herbal remedies to local anesthetics and nitrous oxide, to create a comfortable and trusting environment for the patient.

With pain-dulling practices starting as early as 2250 BC, the evolution of dental anesthesia has come a long way to help make some of the most invasive oral procedures possible.

2250 BC: A Babylonian clay tablet reveals the remedy for pain of dental cavities. The cement that was used was made by mixing henbane seed with gum mastic.

1000 BC: In India, wine is used to produce insensibility.

1540: Valerius Cordus of Germany introduces synthesized sweet vitriol, now more commonly known as ether.

1564: Ambroise Pare of France obtains local anesthesia by compression of nerves.

1779: Humphry Davy announces the anesthetic properties of nitrous oxide and notably calls it laughing gas.

1842: Morton begins the use of ether in dental and oral procedures.

1844: After demonstrating nitrous to Dr. Horace Wells, traveling showman Gardner Colton gives nitrous oxide to Wells and another dentist, Dr. Riggs, for wisdom tooth extraction.

1846: Dr. Horace Wells demonstrates the use of nitrous oxide for tooth extraction. Since the patient claimed he still felt pain during the experience, it was not considered a successful demonstration.

1853: The hollow needle and hypodermic syringe are invented.

1877: Sister Mary Bernard of the US is considered the first nurse anesthetist.

1884: Carl Koller expounded the value of cocaine for local anesthesia.

1894: H.J. Carlson discovers that ethyl chloride produced a sound sleep in some dental patients.

1904: Procaine, or more commonly known as Novocaine, is discovered.

1915: D.F. Jackson uses carbon dioxide absorber for general anesthesia.

1931: The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is organized by Agatha Hodgins.

1942: Curare, an arrow poison once used by South American Indians, is first used and starts the "Age of Anesthesia."

1943: Lidocaine is synthesized and used as a dental anesthetic in minor surgery.

1956: Halothane, which is still used today, is used clinically for the first time.

1967: Synthesized pancuronium, Pavulon, is first used clinically.

1981: Forane is approved for general use in the United States.

1990: Propofol (Diprivan) Sedative, a hypnotic is introduced into clinical use in the United States after showing success in Europe for many years.

1992: Desflurane is introduced and used clinically.

For more information read our series from 2012 by Dr. Darin O'Bryan: “How to Give a Painless Injection”.