Dental Xrays and Radiation Exposure

Due to a recent article that came out this Spring, many patients are concerned about the amount of radiation they are being exposed to every time they receive a dental X- ray. It is safe to say that we recieve more radiation walking to our cars or flying across country, than from dental X- rays. Below is a list of radiation exposure and typical dosages emitted:

Radiation exposure is measured in millisievert (mSv).


 Single dose, fatal within weeks = 10,000 (mSv)

Typical doseage recorded in those Chernobyl workers who died within a month = 6,000 (mSv)

 Single does which would kill half of those exposed to it within a month= 5,000 (mSv)

Single doseage which would cause radiation sickness, including nausea, lower white blood cell count.=  1,000(mSv)

Accumulated doseage estimated to cause a fatal cancer many years later in 5% of people = 1,000(mSv)

Recommended limit for radiation workers every five years = 100(mSv)

Lowest annual dose at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident = 100(mSv)

CT scan: heart = 16(mSv)

CT scan: abdomen & pelvis = 15(mSv)

Dose in full-body CT scan = 10(mSv)

Airline crew flying New York to Tokyo polar route, annual exposure = 9(mSv)

Natural radiation we’re all exposed to, per year = 2(mSv)

CT scan: head = 2(mSv)

Spine x-ray = 1.5(mSv)

Mammogram breast x-ray = 0.4(mSv)

Chest x-ray = 0.1(mSv)

Dental x-ray = 0.005(mSv)


Dental X-rays are valuable in helping dentists detect and treat oral health problems at an early stage. Many oral diseases can’t be detected on the basis of a visual and physical examination alone. Dental X-rays are  useful  in providing information about a patient’s oral health such as early-stage cavities, gum diseases, infections or some types of tumors. 

Normally, 2-4 X-rays are taken once per year on the back teeth to catch any developing bone loss or decay however; a full series of films for the entire mouth are usually taken every 3-5 years to see any developing bone abnormalities, tumors, infections and decay in the front teeth.

Cherise Britt RDH