Our dentists recommend that everyone have a panoramic x-ray taken every 5-8 years.

You may ask:

  • What is a panoramic x-ray?
  • How is that different than a regular x-ray?
  • What is it for?

Let me explain.

What is a Panoramic X-ray?

panoramic x-ray, radiographA panoramic x-ray, or pan, is an x-ray that shows the dentist your entire jaw, all of your teeth and the structures that surround them.  The dentists are able to see the location of major nerves, your sinuses, developing teeth and pathologies.  They can look at your jaw joint (TMJ) and the bones of your mouth.  A panoramic x-ray is a great overall screen for the health of your mouth.

How is that Different than a Regular X-ray?

Regular intraoral x-rays (the ones you bite on) show 2-6 teeth, depending on the location and type of x-ray being taken.

bitewing x-ray

Bitewing X-ray to look for cavities and monitor bone levels


Bitewing x-rays (the ones we take to check for cavities) only show half of each tooth.







periapical x-ray

Periapical X-ray showing the whole tooth structure



Periapical x-rays show the whole tooth, but only a few teeth are captured here.




The panoramic x-ray shows all of the teeth in one x-ray.  The detail in a panoramic x-ray is not as clear as a bitewing or periapical but is great for showing development, lesions and as an overall health screen.  Bitewings and periapicals will be recommended as well when necessary to check for cavities, bone levels or infections.  Dr. Moreau & Dr. Martin will recommend certain x-rays for specific reasons and are more than happy to discuss this with you.


What is it for?

Let’s talk about specific reasons to take a panoramic x-ray.

We recommend that all of our new patients have a panoramic x-ray done, unless a recent one is available from your previous office.  This allows our dentists to have a baseline of your oral health to compare to in the future, and also allows them to diagnose many dental issues.  After that, and for all other patients in our office, we recommend a panoramic x-ray every 5-8 years, depending on your specific situation.

root canal; panoramic x-ray

We routinely recommend children have a panoramic x-ray between ages 6 and 8 to check that all of their adult teeth are developing properly and in the right position.  This allows our dentists to intervene early if they notice a problem with your child’s developing teeth.  Then around 18 years old, we will take another panoramic x-ray to look at the development of your child’s wisdom teeth.  Many people do not have the space in their mouth to allow the wisdom teeth to come in.  Our dentists want to diagnose that early so we can make recommendations on if and when the wisdom teeth will need to be removed.

For any patient who is considering orthodontic treatment, a panoramic x-ray is needed for planning your treatment. The pan allows the dentists coordinating the orthodontic treatment to properly plan the phases of treatment.  It allows the dentist to see the position and location of your teeth as well as your roots.  Follow up panoramic x-rays are often taken during and after orthodontic treatment to evaluate the progress and final result of the treatment.

Any patient who is having jaw pain should have a pan taken.  It allows the dentist to look at your jaw joint as well as evaluate your mouth for any lesions that may be the source of the pain.

Wisdom teeth are a common source of jaw pain.  The panoramic x-ray will show our dentists if you have any wisdom teeth as well as where they are located.  The pan will allow the dentists to safely plan for the extraction of any wisdom teeth that need to be extracted.  By showing the dentist not only the location and position of the wisdom teeth themselves, but also the location of your mandibular nerve and maxillary sinuses, the panoramic x-ray allows the dentists to evaluate the risks of the surgery and plan accordingly.

Lastly, panoramic x-rays are used to check the bones of your mouth for infections and lesions.  Infections can grow in your bones without you knowing about it, but will show up on a pan.  Lesions such as oral cancer, cysts or other anomalies can be found on a panoramic x-ray that would otherwise go undetected until more advanced.  Routine panoramic x-rays allow our dentists to diagnose these problems hopefully in the early stages so that they can treat you better.

If you have any questions about panoramic x-rays or if you should have one done, please don’t hesitate to ask our dentists at your next visit.


Panoramic X-ray

Panoramic X-ray Machine