Answer to Question #10940 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues — Dental

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


I am a 25-year-old male suffering from depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have seen about six oral surgeons regarding a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issue. Each oral surgeon except for one of them took a panoramic x ray. That leaves about a total of eight panoramic x rays taken within that time frame. I recently read about the risk of cancer and brain tumors because of the radiation from these x rays. Being that I took about eight within that time frame, I am now worried and scared that I might develop a brain tumor or some form of cancer and it is troubling me. Do I have a legitimate concern?


The average effective dose for a panoramic image is 0.016 mSv (millisieverts), so for all eight panoramic images the effective dose would be 0.128 mSv. For comparison, the average adult receives an effective dose of about 0.0085 mSv per day from naturally occurring radiation in the environment (background radiation). An effective dose of 0.128 mSv is equivalent to just over two weeks (15 days) of background radiation.   

Regarding the risk from an exposure of 0.128 mSv, the Health Physics Society has a position statement titled, “Radiation Risk in Perspective,” which states, in part, that "below levels of about 100 mSv above background from all sources combined, the observed radiation effects in people are not statistically different from zero." In other words, the risk, if it exists, is too small to be seen. As you can see, your radiation dose is well below that which health effects can be attributed to radiation.

The information used in the above answer was supplied by one our dentist experts. He also suggested that although the treatment of TMJ dysfunction is not a recognized dental specialty, there are dentists who limit their practices to this area. He suggests that you may want to consider seeking care from one of these dentists.

Kent Lambert, CHP

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 19 May 2014. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.