Most people are aware of the importance of dental x-rays (radiographs) for the diagnosis of cavities, gum disease, and infected or abscessed teeth. What you may not know is that dental x-rays can also be an important tool for helping to diagnose cancer and even cardiovascular disease.
Even though the standard single tooth x-ray, called a periapical or even a check-up “bite-wing” x-ray can sometimes pick up abnormalities in the jaw or sinus, it is the larger panoramic x-ray that is most useful in this area. Many of us are familiar with the panoramic x-ray, often called a “pan” when we are being evaluated for braces or the position of our wisdom teeth. It is the only dental x-ray taken standing up, and the x-ray machine moves around the head to image the entire jaw at once.
The panoramic x-ray can help reveal deep cavities and gum disease, but it is not as precise as bite-wing or periapical x-rays. The panoramic x-ray has many important applications, including evaluating patients with past or present TMJ (jaw joint) problems, those who require full or partial removable dentures, dental implants, braces, are at risk or suspected of having oral cancer or other tumors of the jaw, have impacted teeth (especially wisdom teeth), have had any recent trauma to the face or teeth (i.e. can help identify a fractured jaw), and for those who can not tolerate other types of films (severe gaggers).
The panoramic x-ray can also identify some not so common problems, such as calcification within the carotid artery that may indicate the potential for a stroke. In another unusual situation, I can recall one patient who mentioned that he had suffered for years with recurrent sinus infections. I took a panoramic x-ray that revealed an infected tooth, upside-down and stuck in his sinus!
The panoramic x-ray is an important part of a thorough dental examination. I usually recommend a panoramic x-ray once every five to seven years for most patients. Although the panoramic x-ray does not provide as much detail when evaluating the teeth and gums as other dental x-rays, it can pick-up potential problems that the other x-rays cannot, which could even help save your life.
Dr. Jerry Gordon can be reached at (215) 639-0571. Comments, questions, and second opinions are available at The Dental Comfort Zone, 2734 Street Rd. Bensalem, PA 19020 (across from the Giant supermarket). To learn more: https://dentalcomfortzone.com/ | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org