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What Is a Panoramic Dental X-Ray?

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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Many types of x-rays are used by the dentist today. A panoramic dental x-ray is a panoramic picture of a person's entire mouth. This provides the dentist with a clear view of all teeth in a single picture, which gives him a better understanding of the health and placement of the teeth in the jawbone.

A panoramic dental x-ray is particularly important for identifying problems with the wisdom teeth. These are the teeth in the back of the mouth. A standard x-ray has a difficult time capturing the entire wisdom tooth because of the depth of the root area.

The X-ray provides a broad view of the entire mouth area, which gives the dentist insight to other potential dental problems. This photo includes the jawbone, neck, and sinus areas of the human head. This can help a dentist determine any misalignment of the jaw area, which can affect the chewing habits of a person.

The panoramic x-ray uses special film that is not placed in the patient's mouth. This is different than a standard bite wing x-ray. The panoramic x-ray relies on advanced technology that reads through the head and teeth, similar to a chest x-ray.

Most dentists perform a panoramic dental x-ray on the first visit. This provides a quick photo of the teeth to help the dentist determine potential tooth decay. A dentist will often require additional singular photos for specific tooth problems identified in the panoramic view.

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A panoramic dental x-ray takes several minutes to complete. The dentist will typically ask the patient to sit still while mechanical x-ray machines move around the head. This process is painless but can be slightly intimidating.

Many people worry about the radiation dosage of x-ray machines at the dentist. This type of x-ray is modest compared to standard chest x-rays. The X-ray produces about two-thirds less radiation then a typical chest x-ray. This dosage is equivalent to three standard tooth photographs.

A panoramic dental x-ray is not necessary every year. Most dentists request a new panoramic reading every five years. This provides adequate review and coverage to determine potential problems with the jaw area or wisdom teeth.

Most dental insurance polices will cover a panoramic dental x-ray on an infrequent interval. This x-ray is more expensive than a standard bite wing x-ray but is considered more efficient because it covers the entire mouth with one photo. It is best to review the specific dental policy before seeing the dentist to understand what costs will be covered.

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Discuss this Article

John57
Post 4

I don't have dental insurance either, so I decline having a panoramic x-ray done unless there is a major problem they are concerned about. Up to this point I have been OK without having one done.

I don't know how much it would cost, but feel like it is not necessary if I am not having any pain. I also had my wisdom teeth removed years ago, so they wouldn't need to do one for that reason.

Not having insurance does make a difference in the treatments I choose to receive. It is nice to know that I have the option of having this done if I absolutely have to, but so far I have been able to avoid it and have saved myself some money.

I don't think my dentist always agrees with this decision, but he realizes the decision ultimately lies with me whether I have this done or not.

bagley79
Post 3

@myharley-- Any time I have an x-ray done I think about the amount of radiation exposure I am getting. In the last year I have had everything from a dental x-ray, to a chest x-ray to a couple of mammograms. It may not seem like much at once, but over the course of a year it might be more than I realize.

When the person taking the x-ray is always away from the machine and protected, you wonder if the benefit is worth the risk. I can understand why it is helpful for the dentist to have a full picture of your mouth, jaw and sinus areas as all of these affect your teeth, so I will probably continue with this every 5 years as recommended and hope for the best.

myharley
Post 2
The last time I had a panoramic x-ray taken it was a little bit blurry and they couldn't see the area in question as well as they needed to. I had to have another one taken, and at the time didn't think much about how much radiation exposure I was getting. It doesn't sound like it is all that much, but it is still a little bothersome to me.

golf07
Post 1

My dentist automatically has a panoramic x-ray taken every five years. I don't have dental insurance, so this is always a higher bill than usual when I get it.

Having this kind of x-ray is more comfortable for me then when they take a bite wing. I have a small mouth and it is hard to get the bite wings inside my mouth. Even so, I am just glad this doesn't have to be done very often because of my out of pocket expense.

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