The purpose of this article was to review the literature and provide guidelines on the use of radiation protection for patients in the dental setting. There are limited published data on the effects of low radiation doses such as those used in dental radiology. Most of the evidence is subject to bias, with risk models extrapolated from higher dose models such as studies of the Hiroshima bomb survivors. However, the lack of evidence does not denote the absence of risk, as there is no established ‘safe’ level of radiation exposure. All imaging utilizing ionizing radiation carries a risk for the patient. Hence the patient benefits of imaging must outweigh the potential risk. All diagnostic imaging should adhere to three basic principles, these being justification, optimization and application of dose limits. This article discusses dose reduction techniques and shielding of sensitive organs, particularly the thyroid, during procedures such as intraoral imaging, orthopantomograms and imaging of the pregnant patient.