How much Radiation is in a Dental X-ray?

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Digital x-ray exposure is remarkably low, compared to traditional film x-rays. To give you some perspective, the American Nuclear Society says that the average radiation level that a person is exposed to naturally per year is 620 millirems (mrems) per year. A safe allowable dose for nuclear plant workers, who get exposed to radiation each day in their work, is 5,000 mrems per year. Here are some examples of common exposures to radiation, so you can see how dental x-rays stack up:

  • Whole body CT scan= 1000 mrems
  • 1 pack of cigarettes each day = 36 mrems per year
  • Living in a stone or adobe house= 7 mrems per year
  • 2 hours in a jet plane= 1mrems
  • 1 dental x-ray (site specific problem) = 0.08 mrem
  • 4 checkup x-rays (1 x per year for non cavity-prone patients) = 0.32 mrem
  • Full mouth series of 18 x-rays (taken every 3-5 years) = 1.44 mrems

X-rays are extremely beneficial in early detection and treatment of cavities. They can also detect serious abnormalities such as tumors, abscesses, and sources of infection that can’t be seen otherwise. This may help you understand how the benefits you receive from x-rays far outweigh the minimal exposure of radiation.

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