How does radiation exposure compare between common dental x-ray modalities?


A common challenge we have heard from many dental professionals is how to weigh the tradeoffs that come with these advanced capabilities vs. the increased radiation exposure that comes with them. While the principles of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) are of the highest concern, practicing it requires an understanding of the basics of radiation.

To help patients put the dosage numbers into perspective, it may be worth comparing these to some effective doses of common phenomenon from everyday life. According to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the average worldwide background radiation is about 2400μSv per year or approximately 6.7 μSv a day. A cross-country flight is about 30 μSv. Using these estimates, we can do a rough comparison with every day experiences (CBCT values are the median of the ranges above).



Study Effective Dose (μSv) Days of Background Radiation Cross Country Flights
FMX (round cone) ~150 ~22 ~5
Panoramic X-ray ~10-15 1-2 < 1
Small FOV CBCT ~30-100 4-15 1 – 3
Large FOV CBCT ~100-500 15-75 3 – 16

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