Orthopantomogram (OPG) scans are most commonly referred to as a dental x-ray. 

The OPG x-rays a panoramic (wide view) representation of the lower face including: all teeth, as well as the upper and lower jaw. 

It is used to demonstrate the number, position and growth of teeth, including those which have not yet surfaced or erupted. It is a also useful way to detect problems with the wisdom teeth, jawbone and  temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which connects the jawbone to the head.

How does an OPG work?

A radiographic image is formed by a controlled burst of x-ray radiation which penetrates all oral structures.

Teeth appear lighter on film, as less radiation is needed for them to show up on film. However, dental cavities, infections and changes in bone density appear darker, as radiation easily penetrates structures with less density. Depending on the density, dental restorations (e.g. fillings, crowns, etc.) may appear lighter or darker.

How common is OPG?

Dental imaging is an essential component of most dental visits. The images are clear enough to spot signs of cavities and periodontal disease – both of which can be easily overlooked during a visual examination.

OPG x-rays are relatively commonplace for most dental patients, as they are used to detect a wide variety of dental problems and oral conditions.

This x-ray may be taken as part of a routine dental check-up, as it helps your dentist find hidden dental structures, malignant or benign masses or cavities, as well as detect bone loss.

Your dentist may request an OPG to to assess wisdom teeth when planning orthodontic treatment or as a general overview of the teeth and the bones supporting them.

What can I expect?

The procedure is simple, non-invasive and does not incur any side effects.

Standing with your face resting on a small shelf, you will be given a sterile mouth piece to bite on. The purpose of this is to ensure your head remains still throughout the procedure. It is essential to remain still while the dental x-ray is being taken.

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