The Whole Picture

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

There is a type of x-ray machine that takes one large film of all upper and lower teeth and jaws. This type of radiograph is called a panoramic x-ray or panograph. It is very easy to take as it does not involve the placement of film inside the mouth. Patients who have a tendency to gag can really appreciate this x-ray. The film is placed on a canister that rotates around your head as you sit or stand depending on the design of the machine. The exposure to radiation is minimal. It is a fraction of what one would be exposed to if a full series of regular x-rays were taken.

This type of x-ray unit is usually seen in the offices of oral surgeons and orthodontists. The panograph is an excellent film for detecting pathology in the jaw and jaw fractures and for locating impacted teeth and their position with respect with respect to important structures like nerve canals and sinuses. It is an excellent tool for watching the eruption pattern of children who may be candidates for orthodontics.

The disadvantage for general dentists is that the teeth themselves do not appear on a panograph as clearly as they do on the smaller films called bitewings and periapicals. Bitewings and periapicals show greater detail and are better to use when trying to detect early tooth decay.


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