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Cephalometric X-rays

The cephalometric X-ray is a unique tool that enables the dentist to capture a radiographic image of the side of the face.  X-rays in general offer the dentist a way to view the teeth, jawbone, and soft tissues beyond what can be seen with the naked eye.  Cephalometric X-rays are extraoral, meaning that no plates or film are inserted inside the mouth.

Cephalometric X-rays display the airway, nasal and sinus passages, which are missed by intraoral bitewing X-rays. This allows the dentist to assess the airway for possible concerns, blockages, narrowing and pathology. This X-ray is an effective tool in determining the need for airway surgery including tonsillectomies and adenectomies. 

Cephalometric X-rays are also routinely used for orthodontic treatment to assess skeletal development and to develop treatment plans for orthodontic care. 

Cephalometric X-rays are not as common as “full sets” or bitewing X-rays, but they serve several important functions:

  • Provide views of the side profile of the face.
  • Provide views of the jaw in relation to the cheekbone.
  • Provide information about “bad bites” or malocclusions.
  • Allow measurement of the teeth.
  • Allow measurement of the jaw bone and skull 
  • Identify fractures and other injuries to the teeth and jawbone.
  • Assists in orthodontic planning.

How are cephalometric X-rays taken?

Cephalometric X-rays are completely painless. The head is placed between the mechanical rotating arm and the film holder, which is placed on another arm.  The arm rotates around the head capturing images of the face, mouth, and teeth.  The clarity and sharpness of these images will depend on the positioning of the body. 

After capturing cephalometric X-rays, the dentist will be able to see a complete side profile of the head. This can assist in orthodontic planning and allow an immediate evaluation of how braces might impact the facial profile and teeth.  Another common use for this type of X-ray is to determine specific measurements for the airway to aid in the decision for airway surgery.

If you have any questions or concerns about cephalometric X-rays, please us! 


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