Dosimetry of a cone-beam computed tomography machine compared with a digital x-ray machine in orthodontic imaging

Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2012 Apr;141(4):436-43. doi: 10.1016/j.ajodo.2011.10.024.


Introduction: Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) has become a routine imaging modality for many orthodontic clinics. However, questions remain about the amount of radiation patients are exposed to during the scans. This study determined the amounts of radiation potentially absorbed by a patient during orthodontic imaging with a CBCT machine with various scan settings compared with a conventional 2-dimensional digital x-ray machine.

Methods: The radiation exposures delivered by a next generation i-CAT CBCT machine (Imaging Sciences International, Hatfield, Pa) at various scan settings and orthopantomograph OP100/OC100 digital x-ray machine (Instrumentarium Dental, Tuusula, Finland) during panoramic and cephalometric radiography were recorded using thermoluminescent dosimeters placed inside a head and neck phantom. The manufacturer-recommended settings for an average adult male were used for both types of machines. Effective doses were calculated using the tissue-weighting factors recommended by the 2007 International Commission on Radiological Protection.

Results: The effective doses at various voxel sizes and field of view settings ranged from 64.7 to 69.2 μSv for standard resolution CBCT scans (scan time 8.9 s) and 127.3 to 131.3 μSv for high resolution full field of view scans (scan time 17.8 s), and measured 134.2 μSv for a high-resolution landscape scan with a voxel size as would be used for SureSmile (OraMetrix, Richardson, Tex) therapy (scan time 26.9 s). The effective doses for digital panoramic and lateral cephalometric radiographs measured 21.5 and 4.5 μSv, respectively.

Conclusions: CBCT, although providing additional diagnostic and therapeutic benefits, also exposes patients to higher levels of radiation than conventional digital radiography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Marrow / radiation effects
  • Brain / radiation effects
  • Cephalometry / instrumentation
  • Cone-Beam Computed Tomography / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Esophagus / radiation effects
  • Facial Muscles / radiation effects
  • Fluorides / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / instrumentation
  • Lithium Compounds / radiation effects
  • Lymph Nodes / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Mouth Mucosa / radiation effects
  • Neck Muscles / radiation effects
  • Orthodontics / instrumentation*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiography, Dental, Digital / instrumentation*
  • Radiography, Panoramic / instrumentation
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skull / radiation effects
  • Thermoluminescent Dosimetry / instrumentation
  • Thyroid Gland / radiation effects


  • Lithium Compounds
  • lithium fluoride
  • Fluorides