How Much Dangerous Radiation are you Exposed to When Having Dental X-rays Taken?

Patients often ask us how much radiation they will be exposed to when they have x-rays at 92 Dental. This question is often tinged with concern- not least because exposure to high levels of radiation damages cells that can, in turn, cause cancer.

As scary as this sounds, one must bear in mind that it takes an incredibly large dosage of radiation in order to cause any significant cell damage. It is far from the case that any amount of radiation can do you harm. In fact, we are constantly surrounded by “background” radiation in the earth’s atmosphere. The background radiation to which we are exposed to every day does us no harm at all.

Back to x-rays; there are three types of x-rays that we commonly take at 92 Dental. These are:

  1. Bitewing x-rays: these are taken in the dentist’s chair during a check-up. They are the most common type of x-rays we take.
  2. OPG: these x-rays are taken downstairs in our specialised room and show us the structure of your jaw as a whole.
  3. CT Scan: X-rays which show us the volume of bone in your jaw. These are taken if you are going to have dental implants. They tell us the size of the implant needed, as well as whether there is enough bone to hold the implant in place.
    Dosages of harmful ionising radiation are measured in Sieverts. One Sievert is a large amount, so the amount of radiation that our x-rays exposes one to is most usefully measured in millisieverts. These are one thousandths of a Sievert.

The three types of x-ray we take each expose you to different amounts of radiation:

  1. Bitewing x-ray: 0.005 MsV (millisievert) of radiation or the equivalent of 1 day of background radiation.
  2. OPG: 0.01 MsV of radiation or the equivalent of 2 days of background radiation
  3. CT scan: 2 MsV of radiation or the equivalent of 1 year of background radiation.

This all means that the levels of radiation that you are exposed to when having bitewing x-rays or OPGs are negligible and absolutely nothing to worry about. CT scans deliver a considerably higher amount of radiation, however unless you are receiving them on a regular basis they should pose no risk to your health. As we only use these kind of x-rays when you have dental implants you will not have them anywhere near often enough for the radiation to do you harm.


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