Oral Surgery Clinic at Bridle Trail Medical Centre
Tommy Fok and Edwin Chau
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Panoramic X-rays

Panoramic X-rays (also known as Panorex® or orthopantomograms) are wraparound radiographs 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, advanced cavities, root abcesses, and may 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 sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve.  Panoramic X-rays are preferable to intraoral X-rays when a patient is in extreme pain and unable to open their mouth fully.

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

  • Assess patients with an extreme gag reflex.
  • Evaluate the progression of TMD.
  • Expose cysts and abnormalities.
  • Expose impacted teeth.
  • Expose jawbone fractures.
  • Help plan treatment utilizing implants.
  • Reveal advanced 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 can be placed safely without interfering with vital structures of the jaws.

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 positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear and useful the X-rays will be to us.  

Panoramic X-rays are an important diagnostic tool and are also valuable for planning future treatment.  They are safer than other types of X-ray because less radiation enters the body.

If you have questions or concerns about panoramic X-rays, please ask us.

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