On average, most people go to the dentist about once a year, perhaps just for a cleaning. How much radiation does a person get for each dental visit that includes an x-ray? Radiation is measured in millirems or mrem. For your typical yearly dental visit, you will be receiving .5 to 3 mrem. How does that stack up against other doses of radiation?

* 1 mrem a year: from smoke detectors
* 5 mrem: one cross-country flight from increased altitude
* 10 mrem a year: cooking with natural (radon) gas
* 10 mrem a year: living in a brick house (radioactive parts of masonry)
* 36 mrem a year: smoking a daily pack of cigarettes

How does radiation exposure in a dental x-ray compare to other medical procedures?

* chest xray: 10 mrem
* mammogram: 40 mrem
* hip x-ray: 65 mrem
* spinal x-ray: 120 mrem
* head scan: 200 mrem

No radiation exposure is completely foolproof and such exposure does accumulate over time. Children may be especially at risk for overexposure. For most people, however, yearly visits to the dentist, even with the small amounts of radiation in an x-ray, seem to be worth the benefits.