Why a radiograph and x ray are not the same thing

Many, many people and dental professionals incorrectly use the term x ray when referring to a radiograph.  I am quite the nitpick on this and other terminology, which drives my students up the walls from time to time.  I’m not sure why or how everyone learned to incorrectly identify a radiograph as an x ray.  The difference between the two comes down to definitions of the two words.

An x ray is a photon of energy.  This is what is exposing the patient for the final image.  This is not the final image and x rays cannot be seen by the naked eye, unless you are Superman.  🙂   (Fun fact: the x in x ray is from the algebraic x for unknown, when Wilhelm Rontgen discovered x rays he labeled it as such assuming down the road someone would discover more about them and correctly identify it as something else than an x ray.)

A radiograph is the resultant image after a patient or object is exposed to x rays.

I realize that many people are set in their ways and will refuse to change their verbiage.  That’s fine with me, but be prepared should you say x ray instead of radiograph I will correct you.  😛

Should you care to discuss with me why you choose to say one or the other, I’m always open to hear others comments.


About Dr. Shawneen Gonzalez

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist having fun finding cool things on radiographs. :)

Posted on August 11, 2011, in Radiology terminology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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