Full Head / Panoramic X-Rays

What is a full-head (AKA panoramic) x-ray?

A full-head x-ray, or panoramic x-ray, helps your dentist see everything that’s going on in your mouth. It’s one of five types of dental x-rays, and it serves one specific purpose: examining your bone structure.

When should you get a full-head / panoramic x-ray?

Full-head x-rays can help your dentist find cysts, infections, bone structure problems, and tumors. You’ll need a full-head x-ray one in one of two scenarios.

The first scenario is when you’re getting a routine check-up. We usually order a full-head x-ray for our patients once every three to five years, just to make sure we stay on top of any hidden conditions that may affect your oral health in the future. In case you have oral cancer this routine check-up can save your life.

The second scenario in which we’ll order a full head x-ray is when we have reason to believe one of the above-listed conditions exists. For example, we might order one when we already suspect your wisdom teeth to be a problem, just to make sure we understand exactly where and how each wisdom tooth is positioned. That’s helpful for us to know if you need to get your wisdom teeth removed.

Is a panoramic x-ray a substitute for a standard dental exam?

We get that question a lot.  Panoramic (AKA full-head) x-rays don’t require you to bite down on film, which people don’t enjoy, sometimes because they have a strong gag reflex.  You may want to know whether you can avoid the “bite down hard” x-ray or the rest of a standard dental exam.

The short answer is, no, full-head x-rays can’t replace standard dental exams, because they’re not ideal for finding cavities.  (We do have ways to help you manage the discomfort of a standard x-ray, so please let us know if you have issues.)

Full-head x-rays are ideal for showing us just about everything else that’s going on in your mouth, though, including impacted wisdom teeth. 

Do panoramic x-rays hurt?

Panoramic x-rays are painless. Like most x-rays, you’ll usually be asked to wear a lead apron and to remove your glasses or jewelry.

Once you’re ready, the machine will rotate around your head. All you need to do is hold your head in the positions we ask for. Stand still, let us take the picture, and you’re done. 

Any side effects of panoramic x-rays?

Panoramic x-rays don’t require film because they create a computerized image after sending the x-ray beam through your head. The beam projects an image to film outside of your mouth.

Though that may sound scary, the vast majority of dental patients experience no problems or side effects. 

There is no evidence panoramic x-rays cause long-term side-effects, either. 

How much does a panoramic x-ray cost?

Full-head / panoramic x-rays typically cost between $100 and $200, but generally they’re covered by insurance. If we determine one is necessary we’ll list it on your treatment plan, so there won’t be any surprises.

Few people call us up and say, “Hey, can I get a panoramic x-ray?”  Usually there is a specific concern or nuisance that makes a full-head x-ray useful and timely.

But if you suspect you have the kinds of conditions that might require one, contact Pure Dental Arts to book your appointment in Seattle or Everett, WA.