Panoramic X-rays

Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound X-rays of the face, teeth and jaws.  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 and bone loss.

Panoramic X-rays are extraoral 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 1-2 years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken every three to five years, or as needed.  A panoramic X-ray is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the jaw bone and surrounding structures, including the TMJ, sinus and Mandibular Nerve. 

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

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
  • Evaluate the progression of TMJ problems.
  • Find cysts and abnormalities.
  • Identify impacted teeth.
  • Show jawbone fractures.
  • Plan treatment (full and partial dentures, braces and implants).
  • Reveal gum disease, bone loss 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 Panorex 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 are magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the smallest 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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