At the dentist, you typically receive traditional intraoral x-rays: where a piece of plastic is placed inside your mouth to bite down on, and each picture shows one or several teeth. Dentists often do several of these x-rays to identify conditions in the mouth.
In contrast to traditional radiographs, a panoramic dental x-rays create a single image of the entire mouth: all teeth, the upper and lower jaws, temporomandibular (TMJ) joints, the nasal area and sinuses. It creates a flat representation of the jaw's otherwise curved structure.
Why Use a Panoramic X-ray?
Because a panoramic x-ray shows the entire mouth in one picture, it doesn't produce as detailed an image as traditional dental x-rays. However, panoramic x-rays can show problems such as bone abnormalities and fractures, cysts, impacted teeth, infections and tumors. Panoramic x-rays are often used in planning for treatments such as extractions, braces, implants and dentures.
How Is the X-ray Done?
Unlike traditional intraoral x-rays, panoramic dental x-rays are extraoral, meaning the imaging machine and film are outside of your mouth. A panoramic dental x-ray machine projects a beam through your mouth onto film or a detector that rotates opposite the x-ray tube. Typically, your head is positioned using chin, forehead and side rests while a bite-blocker keeps your mouth open. The x-ray machine's arms then rotate around your head, starting at one side of your jaw and ending at the other side.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.
Brian Y. Kuo DDS FAGD