Panoramic X-rays 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.
Common uses of the procedure
A panoramic x-ray is a commonly performed examination by dentists and oral surgeons in everyday practice and is an important diagnostic tool. It covers a wider area than a conventional intraoral x-ray and, as a result, provides valuable information about the maxillary sinuses, tooth positioning and other bone abnormalities. This examination is also used to plan treatment for full and partial dentures, braces, extractions and implants.
A panoramic x-ray can also reveal dental and medical problems such as:
- Advanced periodontal disease
- Cysts in the jaw bones
- Jaw tumors and oral cancer
- Impacted teeth including wisdom teeth
- Jaw disorders (also known as temporomandibular joint or TMJ disorders)
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 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 ask your dentist.