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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 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 few years, panoramic X-rays are generally only taken on an as-needed basis.  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 joint, facial structures, jaw bone morphology, eruption sequencing in young patients, possible pathology or fractures, the presence of wisdom teeth and the angulation of tooth roots, the mandibular nerve, as well as the sinus and nasal areas.  Panoramic X-rays are preferable to bitewing X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a patient requires dentures or orthodontic care.

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

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
  • Evaluate the health of the jaw joint (TMJ).
  • Evaluate the presence or absence of teeth.
  • Evaluate tooth root angulation.
  • Evaluate eruption sequencing in young developing patients.
  • Evaluate maxillary sinuses and nasal passage.
  • 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 and extractions 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. 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 help note changes in the facial structures being imaged.

Digital panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning dental treatment. 

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

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