Radiation from Dental X-rays

Dental X-ray radiation doses as it relates to everyday life

Many of you may have read the article several months back that claimed there was a relationship between dental x-rays and brain tumors.  Great Lakes Dental Arts wanted to take a few moments to clarify and help educate patients about dental radiographs.


At Great Lakes Dental Arts we believe in using as little radiation as possible to achieve the desired result.  We always use our judgment in how often we request x-rays.  A patient who has little history of cavities in between the teeth does not need radiographs as often as someone who has a high decay rate.


 In our day-to-day lives, we encounter background radiation that is present in our environment. 


One measurement for radiation is millisieverts, and the effective dose for this background radiation is 3.1mSv on average.  When you compare the radiation from 4 cavity detecting bitewing x-rays, 0.005mSv, it is extremely miniscule.  You would have to get 620 sets of bitewings in order to match the amount of radiation you get just in your day-to-day life.  A full mouth series of radiographs, which we take every 3-5 years depending on the patient's history of disease, delivers 0.015mSv of radiation.  A Panoramic film delivers 0.01 mSv effective dose.


On the medical side, the radiation doses are much higher.  A standard chest CT scan delivers a dose of 7 mSv.  For a CT scan that checks the coronary arteries the dose is 16 mSv.  Obviously, these images are extremely effective and necessary in diagnosing life threatening conditions.  But, the amount of radiation the patient receives is greater than what you would encounter in a dental office.


We ask that you keep some of these numbers in mind the next time you hear a claim linking dental x-rays to various cancers.  If we were exposing every patient to high doses of radiation we probably could cause cancer.  But, we take x-rays to properly diagnose and provide the highest standard of care to our patients. Many people in the scientific community raised questions as to the design of the study that linked dental x-rays and brain tumors. Much of the initial buzz from the study has since worn off, but we still get questions about radiographs. We hope that patients will trust our team to do what is best for them, and know we would never take more radiographs than is necessary.


Author: Dr. Brian Hivick DDS

Great Lakes Dental Arts

8435 Station Street

Mentor, OH 44060



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