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Comparison of Medical, Dental, and Natural Radiation Levels

Comparison of Medical, Dental, and Natural Radiation Levels

oral surgeon ChicagoWhen you visit with your oral surgeon in Chicago, chances are that you will need to have at least one advanced x-ray as part of your examination. Whether you are having your wisdom teeth evaluated or you are interested in dental implants, sophisticated x-rays are necessary and will provide a wealth of information about your anatomy.

If you have ever wondered about the effect of dental x-rays on your body or the amount of radiation that is produced with each press of the button, then you are not alone. Traditionally, dental x-ray technology has been exceptionally safe. With ultra-sensitive x-ray film and highly focused x-ray beams, the exposure to the dental patient was minimal.

Today, with the use of digital x-ray imaging, the radiation dose is even lower than ever before. In fact, compared to other sources of natural and medical radiation, dental imaging generally produces a significantly lower dose.

Since radiation is naturally created in the environment, it is helpful to compare medical and dental radiation exposure to a day in the sun. In the course of normal daily activities, you can expect to accumulate a certain amount of radiation. For instance, on a flight from Los Angeles to London, the estimated radiation dose is equal to approximately 10 days of natural radiation exposure.

When Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) is used in the dental office, the radiation dose is the equivalent of 11 days of natural exposure. In comparison, a CT scan of the abdomen produces the equivalent of 3 years of exposure! That means that an abdominal CT scan requires a radiation dose that is 99% greater than an image of your wisdom teeth.

A single dental x-ray, the type used to capture a single tooth, generates about a days’ worth of exposure. A two-dimensional panoramic image of your head and jaw produces a dose comparable to 2 or 3 days of natural exposure. A chest x-ray on plain film will produce about 10 days of radiation.

A more thorough comparison between real radiation exposure values in milliseiverts can be found below in the accompanying tables labeled 1-3.

Drs. Steven Koos and Brian Shah, your oral surgeons serving Cook County Chicago, continue to take advantage of the newest advancements in radiographic technology in order to protect your health and deliver exceptional dentistry. Call 312-328-9000 today for an appointment to learn more.

Table 1

Natural Radiation Exposure~ 3 mSv per year6             Estimated mSv         (milliSeiverts) Comparable to natural radiation exposure for:
Daily Exposure to natural radiation                      0.008             ~ 1 day
Flight: Los Angeles to London                      0.0807             ~ 10 days


Table 2

Dental Imaging             Estimated mSv (2007 ICRP tissue weights) Comparable to natural radiation exposure for:
Single intraoral x-ray, film              <0.0083 mSv8              ~1 day
Intraoral full mouth series(F-speed film, round cone) 0.170 mSv9 ~ 22 days
2-D Panoramic (digital)        0.014 – 0.024 mSv10              ~2-3 days
3-D Dental Cone Beam(includes multiple fields of view) 0.003-1.073mSv11,12 ~ 8-134 days
3-D Cone Beam (i-CAT 0.3 voxel 13x16cm)1                0.087 mSv13              ~ 11 days


Table 3

Medical imaging15                 Estimated mSv Comparable to natural radiation exposure for:
CT of skull (Somaton 64MDCT)                    0.860 mSv14             ~ 108 days
CT of abdomen                      10 mSv                 3 years
CT of thorax                      10 mSv                 3 years
CT colonography                      10 mSv                 3 years
CT lower GI                    2-4 mSv                 1 year
CT upper GI                    6-8 mSv                 2.5 years
Chest x-ray (plain film)                    0.080 mSv                 10 days
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