Panoramic X-rays

Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound photographs of the face and teeth.  They offer a view that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye.  X-rays in general, expose hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth, reveal preliminary signs of cavities, and also show fractures, bone loss and hidden pathology.

Panoramic X-rays are extra-oral and simple to perform.  Usually, dental X-rays involve the film being placed inside the mouth, but panoramic film is hidden inside a mechanism that rotates around the outside of the head.

Unlike bitewing X-rays that need to be taken every few years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis about every 5 years.  A panoramic X-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve.  Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.

Panoramic X-rays are extremely versatile in dentistry, and are used to:

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
  • Evaluate the progression of TMJ.
  • Expose cysts and abnormalities.
  • Expose impacted teeth.
  • Expose jawbone fractures.
  • Plan treatment (full and partial dentures, braces and implants).
  • Reveal gum disease and cavities.

How are panoramic X-rays taken?

The panoramic X-ray provides the dentist with an ear-to-ear two-dimensional view of both the upper and lower jaw.  The most common uses for panoramic X-rays are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the mandibular nerve (the nerve extending toward the lower lip).

The panoramic X-ray equipment consists of a rotating arm that holds the X-ray generator, and a moving film attachment that holds the pictures.  The head is positioned between these two devices.  The X-ray generator moves around the head taking pictures as orthogonally as possible.  The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear and useful the X-rays will be to the dentist.  The pictures can magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the minutest detail will be noted.

Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment.  They are safer than other types of X-rays because less radiation enters the body.

If you have questions or concerns about panoramic X-rays, please contact our practice.

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