Panoramic Radiographs are extraoral and simple to perform. Usually, dental Radiographs involve the film being placed inside the mouth, but panoramic film is hidden inside a mechanism that rotates around the outside of the head.
Unlike bitewing Radiographs that need to be taken every few years, panoramic Radiographs are generally only taken on an as-needed basis. A panoramic Radiograph is not conducted to give a detailed view of each tooth, but rather to provide a better view of the sinus areas, nasal areas and mandibular nerve. Panoramic Radiographs are preferable to bitewing Radiographs when a patient is in extreme pain, and when a sinus problem is suspected to have caused dental problems.
The panoramic radiograph provides the dentist with an ear-to-ear two-dimensional view of both the upper and lower jaw. The most common uses for panoramic radiographs are to reveal the positioning of wisdom teeth and to check whether dental implants will affect the mandibular nerve (the nerve extending toward the lower lip).
The Panorex equipment consists of a rotating arm that holds the radiograph generator, and a moving film attachment that holds the pictures. The head is positioned between these two devices. The radiograph generator moves around the head taking pictures as orthogonally as possible. The positioning of the head and body is what determines how sharp, clear, and useful the radiographs will be to the dentist. The pictures are magnified by as much as 30% to ensure that even the minutest detail will be noted.