In last week’s post we discussed using x-rays to diagnose different dental conditions. This week we will discuss panoramic x-rays specifically. You may know the panoramic x-rays help dentists see the progress of wisdom teeth, but there is more to a panoramic x-ray than just wisdom teeth.
What is a Panoramic x-ray
Panoramic x-rays are x-rays that show the whole jaw and sometimes are able to include the sinuses. Typical panoramic x-ray machines require you to bite down on a plastic wedge which holds your teeth in the proper position to ensure a good image. The machine then rotates around your head taking multiple images as it goes to create a composite image showing your full dentition.
What we can see with a Panoramic x-ray
As stated a panoramic image allows your dentist to see your entire dentition. It also allows them to see your complete jaw, including your tempero mandibular joint. Most panoramic x-rays include some parts of your sinuses as well. Since these are all included in a panoramic x-ray your dentist is able to get a better understanding of your overall maxillofacial health. Perhaps the most obvious thing that we can see is the progression of adult teeth and wisdom teeth as they form. However, one of the most important things a panoramic x-ray allows your dentist to see is any tumors that may be growing. This is a way to help detect bone cancer as early as possible. Panoramic x-rays are also very useful for evaluating the extent of bone loss due to periodontal disease. If you are planning on getting a dental implant or extraction, a panoramic x-ray is necessary for the oral surgeon to be able to evaluate and plan for the surgery. A panoramic x-ray is also useful in diagnosing TMJ disorders, evaluating for orthodontic treatment and diagnosing cavities in anterior (front) teeth that are not seen in bitewing x-rays.
As you can see there is much more to a panoramic x-ray than just wisdom teeth. Having a panoramic x-ray done is a great diagnostic tool no matter what age you are. Our Evanston dentists recommend taking a panoramic x-ray every three to five years depending on your dental history and exposure to risk factors. Working with your dentist to determine the frequency of your x-rays will ensure that you get the minimum radiation while maintaining an accurate picture of your overall oral health.