Dr. Irving I. Abramson, 93, root-canal expert


Dr. Irving I. Abramson, a retired Baltimore dentist who was an expert in root-canal therapy and was the former head of the endodontics department at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, died in his sleep Monday at Keswick Multi-Care Center. He was 93.

Colleagues said Dr. Abramson was the first dentist in Maryland to practice endodontics exclusively. He was nationally known and lectured widely on endodontics, a dental specialty that includes root-canal therapy.

He was born in Baltimore and raised in Brooks Lane. He graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1927 and received his degree in dentistry from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 1932.

After practicing general dentistry during the 1930s and 1940s in Baltimore, Dr. Abramson realized the potential of new techniques to treat dental disease and reduce the number of tooth extractions that were then commonplace.

During the early 1940s, he pursued studies in endodontics at the University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, Columbia University and St. Louis University.

In 1944, he moved his practice to the Medical Arts Building in downtown Baltimore and restructured his practice to focus on root-canal treatment and therapy.

He later established the University of Maryland School of Dentistry's Department of Endodontics, which he headed until retiring in 1973.

Dr. Abramson was a Fulbright Professor of Endodontics in Peru and lectured widely in Europe, Latin America and Asia. He was the primary author of The Atlas of Endodontic Technique and a prolific contributor to dental journals.

Dr. William R. Patteson, a prosthetic dentist in Towson and a former student of Dr. Abramson's, recalled him as a stimulating teacher.

"He was a wonderfully organized teacher who was always very helpful to his students," Dr. Patteson said. "He wanted you to learn and imparted information to his students like no one I've ever known."

He said Dr. Abramson typed each step of the root-canal procedure on notecards that he gave to students. Once a step was mastered, the student moved to the next card.

"He was an absolute perfectionist and the first endodontic specialist in Maryland," Dr. Patteson said. "The majority of specialists practicing in Maryland today were trained by Irv Abramson."

In addition to endodontics, Dr. Abramson treated children with congenital facial and dental defects until retiring from practice in 1984.

He was a former president of the Baltimore City Dental Society and the Maryland State Dental Association. He was a fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentistry and a diplomate of the American Board of Endodontists.

For years, Dr. Abramson lived in a West Monument Street townhouse near Mount Vernon Place. He moved to the Village of Cross Keys in 1980.

Dr. Abramson was a talented sculptor and goldsmith who enjoyed making jewelry for family members. He also liked spending summers at a second home at Harwichport on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

A golfer and a tennis player, he had been a member of the Suburban Club.

Graveside services were held Wednesday.

Dr. Abramson is survived by his wife of 65 years, the former Grace Bernstein; two daughters, Jane Cohen of New Haven, Conn., and Gay Silberg of Los Angeles; two granddaughters; and three great-grandchildren.

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