Panoramic X-rays



Radiographs are an important part of dental diagnosis and treatment planning. You may be prescribed radiographs that will be used along with your clinical examination. Panoramic radiography is a commonly used imaging technique in radiology and may be a component of your radiologic examination. This image depicts the entire upper and lower jaws, including the teeth, on a single film. Panoramic radiographs allow visualization of regions that cannot be captured or are difficult to image on other types of radiographs, such as the temporomandibular joints and wisdom teeth. Panoramic radiographs may also be used to examine the developing adult teeth and to diagnose other common and less frequently occurring conditions.

Panoramic radiographs are acquired with a film that is positioned outside your mouth. Therefore, you will not need to open your mouth wide, nor have bulky instruments placed inside your mouth. This image is taken with you in the standing position.


  1. You will be asked to remove all metal from the neck up including dentures, earrings, necklaces, hairclips, eyeglasses and facial piercings, as these objects will block the path of the x-ray beam.
  2. You will be given a lead apron to wear. Neck, or thyroid collars are not used in panoramic radiography, since they would block the x-ray beam.
  3. You will be positioned in the panoramic machine. You will be asked to stand tall and you may be asked to bite on a plastic stick with your front teeth in grooves on the stick while your chin rests on a platform. It is important that you are centered on the stick and the operator will make any necessary adjustments. You might see light lines which are used to guide the operator in positioning you. If you are missing teeth, other aids, such as cotton rolls, are used to help position you.
  4. You will be guided to grasp handles on the machine to help keep you stable and in the correct position. For a good result, your spine must be as straight as possible and the operator may guide your head so that your chin is down and your forehead reaches forward. The machine may be adjusted slightly, to bring your chin up or down, into the correct position. You may be asked to smile while maintaining your position and some further adjustments may be made. Supports will gently touch the sides of your head to help keep it stable.
  5. You will be asked to place your tongue, flat, on the roof of your mouth, and to close your lips around the bite stick, for the duration of the procedure.
  6. Now you are ready for the radiograph to be taken. The operator will leave the room or stand behind a barrier to take the image. The film and x-ray source will rotate around your head, but will not touch you. The exposure takes approximately 15 seconds and it is important that you do not move during this time. You will hear sounds, such as a beep and the normal machine movements.
  7. Once the image has been taken, the operator will guide you out of the machine and you may be asked to wait while the image is processed and reviewed.

This initial review does not examine the film for disease; rather, it is assessed to make sure that it is adequate and all structures clearly visible. Occasionally, a retake of the image may be required with any necessary adjustments. Complete examination of the radiograph is done at a later time.

The patient exposure dose of radiation is kept as low as possible in order to maximize diagnostic value while minimizing risk. Radiation doses from dental radiography are considered comparable to the levels of radiation to which we are exposed every day from natural sources, such as the earth and space. Panoramic radiographs provide the dental professional with important information that is vital in the diagnosis and treatment planning for our patients