How do dental X-rays compare to other sources of radiation?

The amount of radiation that we are exposed to from dental X-rays is very small compared to our daily exposure from things like, cosmic radiation and naturally-occurring radioactive elements (for example, those producing radon).

The table below compares our estimated exposure to radiation from dental X-ray with other various sources. As indicated below, a millisievert (mSv) is a unit of measure that allows for some comparison between radiation sources that expose the entire body (such as natural background radiation) and those that only expose a portion of the body (such as X-rays).


Source Estimated Exposure (mSv)
Man Made

Dental X-rays

Bitewing radiographs
Full-mouth series




Medical X-rays

Lower gastrointestinal tract radiography
Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography
Chest radiograph




Cosmic (Outer Space) Radiation

Average radiation from outer space In Denver, CO (per year)




Earth and Atmospheric Radiation

Average radiation in the U.S. from Natural sources (per year)




Source: Adapted from Frederiksen NL. X-Rays: What is the Risk? Texas Dental Journal. 1995;112(2):68-72.

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