X-radiation (composed of X-rays) is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (3×1016 Hz to 3×1019 Hz) and energies in the range 100 eV to 100 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma rays. In many languages, X-radiation is called Röntgen radiation, after Wilhelm Röntgen, who is usually credited as its discoverer, and who had named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation. Correct spelling of X-ray(s) in the English language includes the variants x-ray(s) and X ray(s). XRAY is used as the phonetic pronunciation for the letter x.
You've probably had an X-ray examination of some part of your body. Health care professionals use them to look for broken bones, problems in your lungs and abdomen, cavities in your teeth and many other problems. For example, mammograms use X-rays to look for tumors or suspicious areas in the breasts.
X-ray technology uses electromagnetic radiation to make images. The image is recorded on a film, called a radiograph. The parts of your body appear light or dark due to the different rates that your tissues absorb the X-rays. Calcium in bones absorbs X-rays the most, so bones look white on the radiograph. Fat and other soft tissues absorb less, and look gray. Air absorbs least, so lungs look black.
X-ray examination is painless, fast and easy. The amount of radiation exposure you receive during an X-ray examination is small.
Breast cancer patients, individuals at risk for osteoporosis and those undergoing certain types of bone cancer therapies often take drugs containing bisphosphonates. These drugs have been found to place people at risk for developing osteonecrosis of the jaws (a rotting of the jaw bones). Dentists, as well as oncologists, are now using X-rays to detect "ghost sockets" in patients that take these drugs and when these sockets are found, it signals that the jawbone is not healing the right way. Early detection of these ghost sockets can help the patient avoid permanent damage to their jawbone, according to an article in the March/April 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.
A ghost socket occurs when the jawbone is not healing and repairing itself the right way. "The good news is that even though these ghost sockets may occur, by using radiographic techniques we can see that the soft tissue above these sockets can still heal," according to Kishore Shetty, DDS, MS, MRCS, lead author of the report. Dr. Shetty states these findings are important news to learn about because early prevention and detection can halt permanent damage from happening to a patient's jawbone.
In 2006, about 191 million prescriptions of oral bisphosphonates worldwide were written. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that nearly 44 million people in the United States are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Currently, approximately 10 million Americans suffer from the disease.
Bisphosphonates are a family of drugs used to prevent and treat osteoporosis, multiple myeloma, Paget's disease (bone cancers), and bone metastasis from other cancers. These drugs can bond to bone surfaces and prevent osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) from doing their job. Other cells are still working trying to form bone, but it may turn out to be less healthy bone leading to the ghost-like appearance on X-rays.