March 29, 2015
They say curiosity killed the cat, but without the endless curiosity of the human mind, imagine all the great discoveries that would have remained hidden! So, in celebration of our natural instincts to explore, and in the ceaseless quest for knowledge, today we’re saluting the achievements of one of the greats…Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen!
WHO?!? All right, maybe NOT a household name – or even one you ever heard before. But that’s why we’re here… right? To dig deeper and shine a light on something you may have never known or even thought about!
And appropriately enough, today is ALL ABOUT shining lights to see deeper. For, you see, this past week marked what would have been Röntgen’s 170th birthday on Friday, March 27th. Hang on, I can hear it now: “Yeah, so…who IS this guy and why on earth should I care!?”
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a German physicist, held a position of high esteem and regard within his profession back in the mid-19th century. Earning a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Zurich, Dr. Röntgen held various government and academic posts and delved into the properties of gases, thermal conductivity and electromagnetic influences.
Now, here’s where it gets REALLY interesting! While studying the effects of passing electrical currents through low-pressure gas in a vacuum tube environment, Dr. Röntgen discovered this process produced an eerie, ghostly image. Naturally, this piqued his curiosity… and considering his well-regarded reputation, bringing his discovery to light (so to speak!) could have also killed his career!
So, in secret, Dr. Röntgen continued his investigations into this phenomenon. Then, on the evening of November 8, 1895, he discovered if the vacuum tube were completely sealed from light and if the rays were passed through the object in a darkened room, the image fluoresced… even when photographed up to six feet away!
The final proof came when, two weeks after his initial discovery, Dr. Röntgen placed his wife’s hand in a position, where it remained steady for a few moments, in the path of the rays over a photographic plate. Upon developing the plate, he SAW the skeletal bones of her hand, along with an image of her wedding ring, all surrounded by the fainter shadows of her flesh! And, the first human X-ray, originally dubbed a “röntgenogram,” was taken. However, realizing this name did NOT readily roll off the tongue, he eventually called his new process an X-ray… and a new era in diagnostics was born!
For the first time in medical history, Doctors could actually see inside the human body without ever having to cut through the skin or simply trust their sense of touch or intuition. Imagine the response in the 1800s to seeing those first skeletal images!
The earth-shattering nature of his discovery actually earned Dr. Röntgen the very first Nobel Prize in Physics, awarded in 1901. Today, X-rays not only help Doctors in their medical diagnoses, but have become commonplace in a number of both everyday and scientific fields… including Dentistry.
We take for granted those X-rays the Dentist uses to detect cavities, impacted molars, TMJ, still-developing permanent teeth in a child, bone loss in the jaw supporting your teeth and damage to teeth and roots. Prior to the development of X-rays (pardon the pun), early Dentists had no way of performing subtle diagnostics and were left with very few options other than extraction.
Now, not only can we SEE what is happening before it becomes a problem, X-rays represent one of the most powerful preventative instruments in the Dental toolbox! In fact, every new patient visiting The Smile Center receives a full-mouth series of X-rays, known as an FMX, which become a part of their permanent medical record. This allows our skilled staff to compare changes over a lifetime of visits and to keep your smile healthy.
And while the X-rays you receive at the airport may be your least-favorite part of your vacation, the smiles you share at your destination can, in part, be credited to good, ol’ Doc Röntgen and on this 170th anniversary of his birth, we flash a toothy smile and thank him!