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The name x-ray was created when the researcher who discovered them couldn’t figure out what they were. Since then, the name has stuck around and settled permanently, but is still not all that revealing. What is an x-ray and why is it being shone at your teeth?
An x-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation, or EMR, with a defined range of wavelengths. You have all sorts of EMR radiation travelling through you as you read this! Light, radio waves, and the wifi signal are all examples of these waves, and differ from each other by how much energy the wave is carrying. The reason we are able to perceive colour is due to different wavelengths of light reflecting off surfaces and into our eyes. Know that EMR doesn’t mean anything dangerous or malicious. Afterall, even something as simple as visible light is a form of EMR. All these types of radiation exist on a spectrum based on their wavelengths. It’s a neat thing to realize that visible light could become x-rays should they change in wavelength.
A highly energetic wave, like a gamma ray, has a shorter wavelength than something with less energy, like radio waves. Waves with higher energy are able to penetrate matter more easily, and can be considered more dangerous. Radio waves are travelling through you all the time, for example, without you even realizing it. Their wavelength is long enough to not even have an effect. However, exposure to UV or gamma rays is more dangerous because they can penetrate skin and start knocking electrons off of your DNA, which is about as bad as it sounds. Where do X-rays fit in all this? First, know that the reason x-rays are useful in medicine and dentistry is because of their ability to penetrate through matter. This property is what allows dentists to get a view of your bone structure to check for any abnormalities. In order to do this, x-rays are on the higher energy side of the spectrum.
The amount of x-ray radiation you are exposed to is hardly anything compared to what you would experience from regular sun exposure. Low dosages of this radiation have not been linked directly to any cancer. Other precautionary measures, like wearing a lead covering, are taken to lower potential risks even further. Finally, getting an x-ray isn’t something that is happening twice a day. For most people it’s a relatively rare occurrence to begin with.
In the end, the use of x-ray radiation has been deemed to have more positive outcomes than negative ones. X-rays have helped make countless diagnoses and will likely continue to do so. If you have any questions or concerns about x-rays, don’t hesitate to ask! Give us a call at (587) 317‑7959 today!