What is a panoramic X-ray?

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Panoramic X-rays take one image of your entire mouth so your dentist can see any areas that need attention.

If you have a new dentist, one of the first things that your dentist may do at your first appointment is take a new set of dental X-rays. X-rays will give your dentist an in-depth look at your teeth and allow the dentist to see the strength of your jaw and how your bite aligns with your mouth and jaw.¹ Having a better understanding of the big picture when it comes to your mouth and teeth will help the dentist formulate a treatment plan for your dental needs. The detailed views that X-rays provide, combined with the dentist’s personal evaluation of your teeth, will be the basis of your future dental care.

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How a panoramic X-ray works

A panoramic X-ray is an extraoral X-ray so it’s often easier on patients and easier for dentists and dental technicians to perform. There’s no big plate to bite down on and you don’t have to stretch your mouth in uncomfortable ways. Instead, you just need to step up to the X-ray machine and put your head on the padded headrest, where a technician will adjust it and then secure the machine. The dentist or technician will give you a bite blocker and take the image. The panoramic X-ray will take one image of your entire mouth so that your dentist can see any potential problems or areas that need attention.²

Why dentists rely on panoramic X-rays

Panoramic X-rays can be better for dentists and patients. They expose patients to less radiation than other types of X-rays while also giving dentists a clearer picture of what’s going on in your mouth. Other benefits of panoramic X-rays include:³

  • They’re faster to perform than intraoral X-rays.

  • They’re less invasive than intraoral X-rays.

  • They provide a better overview of your mouth highlighting any problems.

  • They make it easier for the dentist to see cavities and decay on back teeth.

  • They show the dentist any changes in your bite or your jaw alignment.

  • They can show early signs of oral cancer.

Are panoramic X-rays safe?

Even though all X-rays require minimal exposure to radiation in general all dental X-rays are safe including panoramic X-rays. If you are pregnant or if you have a thyroid condition that makes you particularly sensitive to radiation you can wear a lead apron or a lead collar that will protect your abdomen or thyroid area from the radiation associated with dental X-rays.⁴ In addition, the American Dental Association has strict regulations governing how dentists and technicians can perform X-rays, training, certifications, and record keeping making it as safe as possible to get dental X-rays.⁵   

Are panoramic X-rays covered by insurance?

Dental insurance is the best way to control the costs of regular diagnostic and preventative services at the dentist because most dental insurance plans cover the cost of annual X-rays including panoramic X-rays.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


  1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays (Last accessed March 2020)

  2. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=panoramic-xray (Last accessed March 2020)

  3. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/procedures/x-rays/what-is-a-panoramic-dental-x-ray-0415 (Last accessed March 2020)

  4. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays (Last accessed March 2020)

  5. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/x-rays, 2019


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