Skip to main content

Marco Island Dental Blog

Island Tower Dentistry

Marco Island Dentist Details History of Dental X-Rays

Along with regular examinations and professional cleaning, periodic dental x-rays are typically a standard of care in the maintenance of your oral health. Primarily used to diagnose potential problems within a tooth or below the gumline, dentists also use x-rays as a proactive monitoring tool to track any changes that occur in your teeth and gums over time. In fact, the x-ray’s ability to discern potential problems that cannot be seen by visual inspection makes it one of the most beneficial diagnostic tools in dentistry. While technology makes today’s dental x-rays seem like a relatively recent high tech invention, you might be surprised to learn that x-ray technology has been around for 105 years and that several dentists and physicists from around the world took the first dental x-rays within weeks of each other in 1896.      

If you have questions about dental x-rays, you can certainly ask your dentist or dental hygienist next time you visit our Marco Island, Florida dental office. You can also read on below to learn more about the history and evolution of dental x-rays.    

“Röntgen Rays” as Moniker Just Did Not Take

German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen accidentally discovered the power of x-rays in 1895 while observing fluorescent light emanations coming from a cathode-ray tube. Röntgen saw that even when the tube was shielded by heavy black paper, green-colored light appeared on nearby materials. Other materials used to shield the tube produced similar results and the physicist realized that he had discovered a light energy that was able to pass through many substances, though not metal and bones. By focusing the rays onto a photographic plate backstop, Röntgen was able to produce shadowy images of materials—metal and bones—that the rays were not able to pass through. In fact, one of his first experiments with his new-found rays produced a photograph of the bones of his wife’s hand.

Röntgen’s discovery became an overnight scientific sensation that captured the attention of scientists around the world and within six months the technology was being used to locate bullets of soldiers wounded in battle. Röntgen initially called the mysterious light rays “x-rays” because scientists used “x” to denote things yet to be fully identified and understood. Röntgen earned the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery, and while “Röntgen Rays” as a moniker for the discovery was adopted by scientists in some countries, the name never managed to take hold internationally, so x-rays, along with radiography, remain the most common terminology.     

Dentistry initially Slow to Adopt X-Rays

While dentists in New York, New Orleans, and Boston all took dental x-rays of a patient in 1896, and independently developed equipment to ease the process, dental x-ray technology was not widely used until the 1950s. While commercial dental x-ray equipment was available for sale as early as 1923, impediments to early adoption of the technology included concerns about radiation exposure and electrocution, as well as the high cost of the technology. By the 1950s, though, radiation and electrocution protection protocols had been firmly established and the technology was no longer as cost-prohibitive to smaller practices. Additionally, between the 1920s and 1950s, x-ray innovators and dental practitioners made numerous improvements to oral x-ray equipment, photography, and techniques, which helped speed up the process, improve safety, and further lower costs.  

Dental X-Ray Technology Continues to Advance

Since the 1950s, dental x-ray technology has continued to advance, as evidenced most clearly by the shift from capturing the rays on photographic film—and then having to develop it—to the near-instant x-ray imagery capture by digital radiography. Digital x-ray technology was first developed and introduced commercially in the early 1980s but did not enjoy widespread adoption in the dental field until the 1990s. Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dental practice that sill uses photographic film to produce dental x-rays.

Along with digital technology, computing power has helped make further advances in the diagnostic capabilities of dental x-rays. “Subtraction radiography” software helps dentists digitally compare new x-rays to older ones by “subtracting out” everything that is the same between the two images to provide a clear view of any changes. Computerized 3D imaging and cone-beam technology are allowing dentists to take three-dimensional images of your teeth, jaw, and surrounding structures. This is especially helpful in strategizing for dental implant treatment.   

Contact Island Tower for Your Professional Dental Cleaning

As suggested above, dental x-rays are among the most powerful diagnostic tools used by your dentist. The next time the dental care professionals at Island Tower Dentistry recommend dental x-rays during your appointment, know that the diagnostic imagery it provides them will go a long way towards ensuring the most complete maintenance of your oral health. To learn more about how Island Tower Dentistry strives to provide the best in oral health in the Marco Island, Florida area, contact us today at 239-394-1004 to make an appointment!

We’ll Keep Your Smile Looking Beautiful

  • 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Ste 200, Marco Island, Florida 34145
  • Monday through Thursday | 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

  • Closed Fridays | Call our office for emergencies

Learn More About Island Tower Dentistry