PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to measure the absorbed dose and to calculate the effective dose for one periapical radiography using the portable and wall type dental X-ray machines. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thermoluminescent chips were placed at 25 sites throughout the layers of the head and neck of a tissue-equivalent human skull phantom. The man phantom was exposed with the portable and wall type dental X-ray machines. For one periapical radiography taken by portable dental X-ray machine, the exposure setting was 60 kVp, 2 mA and 0.2 seconds, while for one periapical radiography taken by wall type dental X-ray machine, exposure setting was 70 kVp, 8 mA and 0.074 seconds. Absorbed dose measurements were performed and equivalent doses to individual organs were summed using ICRP 103 to calculate effective dose. RESULTS: In the upper anterior periapical radiography using portable dental X-ray machine and in the lower posterior periapical radiography using both machines, the highest absorbed dose was recorded at the mandible body. The effective dose in upper anterior periapical radiography using portable and wall type dental X-ray machines was 4 microSv, 2 microSv, respectively. In the lower posterior periapical radiography, the effective dose for each portable and wall type dental X-ray machines was 6 microSv, 2 microSv. CONCLUSION: It was recommended that the operator use prudently potable dental X-ray machine because that the effective dose in the periapical radiography using wall type dental X-ray machine was lower than that in the periapical radiography using portable dental X-ray machine.