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Dental Radiation

10.26.16 in General

Healthy Mouth Sounds- Dental Radiation

A good clinician imagines with his minds eye as he or she examines the surface, what lies beneath the skin.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually visualize what was beneath and inside? Oh wait… we can!

The discovery of x-radiation dates back to the 17th century. Physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen noticed the fluorescence of some nearby chemicals in his laboratory, while working with his cathode ray tube. He immediately recognized the significance and turned his attention to this new “ray” causing the phenomenon. Since the source of this ray was unknown, he dubbed it- an x-ray. Roentgen established most of the properties of the x-ray and reported his findings in December of 1895. By 1896, images of teeth and jaws had been recorded on x-ray film.

So, what do we know about x-rays? Well, they are small units of energy called quanta. They behave both like waves and particles. They are so highly energized that they have penetrating qualities, yet they act much like light. By that we mean that x-rays and light both travel in a waveform. They both have wavelengths. And they both are absorbed by matter when they hit it, and cast a shadow behind the matter. This seems obvious when we think of light. If you stand in front of a ray of light from the sun, your shadow projects on the sidewalk behind you. When we place tissue in front of a beam of x-rays, some of the beam is absorbed by the tissues, and some passes directly to the film behind the tissue. This creates an image (a shadow if you will) on the film. So x-rays and light have similarities in their behaviors.
Soon after discovery, it became apparent that x-rays served a purpose in many fields of science, especially in health care. For the past 120 years, we have consistently improved the production of, exposure with and uses for x-rays. It also became apparent that harm can come from this type of radiation and great strides have been made in the safe utilization of x-rays as they form an image, known as a radiograph.

We will spend the next few blogs familiarizing ourselves with the evolution of use of the x-ray to form images in dentistry. So, stay tuned in and keep smiling. Dr. W.

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