Objectives: Cone beam CT (CBCT) is an emerging X-ray technology applied in dentomaxillofacial imaging. Previous published studies have estimated the effective dose and radiation risks using adult anthropomorphic phantoms for a wide range of CBCT units and imaging protocols. Methods: Measurements were made five dental CBCT units for a range of imaging protocols, using 10-year-old and adolescent phantoms and thermoluminescent dosimeters. The purpose of the study was to estimate paediatric organ and effective doses from dental CBCT. Results: The average effective doses to the 10-year-old and adolescent phantoms were 116 μSv and 79 μSv, respectively, which are similar to adult doses. The salivary glands received the highest organ dose and there was a fourfold increase in the thyroid dose of the 10-year-old relative to that of the adolescent because of its smaller size. The remainder tissues and salivary and thyroid glands contributed most significantly to the effective dose for a 10-year-old, whereas for an adolescent the remainder tissues and the salivary glands contributed the most significantly. It was found that the percentage attributable lifetime mortality risks were 0.002% and 0.001% for a 10-year-old and an adolescent patient, respectively, which are considerably higher than the risk to an adult having received the same doses. Conclusion: It is therefore imperative that dental CBCT examinations on children should be fully justified over conventional X-ray imaging and that dose optimisation by field of view collimation is particularly important in young children. © 2012 The British Institute of Radiology.