How Safe Are Dental X-rays?

With the increased news regarding radiation exposure in the medical, dental and even airport settings, we thought that it would be a good idea to organize some information on the general effective doses of radiation as it relates to dentistry and the world around us.  While there are different measurements of radiation, we are interested in measuring the “Dose Equivalent Radiation”.  Around the world, this is measured in Sieverts, but in the United States it is measureed in REM, or millirem (mREM). The average person in the United States is exposed to 300-360 mREM in background radiation each year.  Background radiation is the radiation constantly present in the natural environment of the Earth, which is emitted by natural and artificial sources.

The following list will allow you to compare dental radiographs with other sources of radiation that you may encounter in your life.


Digital Bitewing X-rays(4)                                1.3 mREM

Digital Fullmouth Series X-rays(18)                  6 mREM

Digital Panoramic X-ray                                       1 mREM

Dental CBCT Scan                                          2 to 7 mREM

Film Based X-ray (1)                                              1 mREM

Film Based Fullmouth Series(18)                    18 mREM

Film Based Panoramic                                        2 mREM


Brain CT Scan                                                   ~200 mREM

Heart CT Scan                                                 ~1200 mREM

Gastrointestinal CT Scan                              ~1000 mREM

Mammogram                                                        42 mREM

Chest X-ray                                                             10 mREM


Airport Scan                                                        .01 mREM

Cross Country Flight                                     3 to 5 mREM

Cooking with Natural gas                                  10 mREM/year

Smoking 30 cigarettes/day            1300 to 6000 mREM/year


Radiation from dental visits result in a small percentage of your annual background radiation exposure.  While the bitewing series is taken on an annual basis to evaluate the teeth for cavities, the other dental radiographic films are taken infrequently.  Dental radiographs play a critical part in comprehensive dental treatment and we have always strived to accumulate the best data, while limiting the radiation exposure to our patients. Over the years we have integrated digital x-rays and a conebeam CT to expand our diagnosing capabilities while reducing the overall amount of radiation exposure. While there is no way to say that any amount of radiation is “safe”, we do our best to make sure that your exposure at the dental office is kept to a minimum.


Issaquah Creek Dental