The cephalometric X-ray is a unique tool that enables the dentist to capture a complete radiographic image of the side of the face. X-rays in general offer the dentist a way to view the teeth, jawbone, and soft tissues beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Cephalometric X-rays are extraoral, meaning that no plates or film are inserted inside the mouth. Cephalometric and panoramic X-rays display the nasal and sinus passages, which are missed by intraoral bitewing X-rays.
Cephalometric X-rays are usually taken with a panoramic X-ray machine. The adapted machine will have a special cephalometric film holder mounted on a mechanical arm. An X-ray image receptor is exposed to ionizing radiation in order to provide the dentist with pictures of the entire oral structure. The body is exposed to very little radiation.
Cephalometric X-rays are not as common as “full sets” or bitewing X-rays, but they serve several important functions:
- Assists in orthodontic planning.
Provide views of the profile of the face.
Provide views of the jaw in relation to the rest of the face and skull.
Provide information about “bad bites” or malocclusions.
Allow measurement of the teeth.
Identify fractures and other injuries to the teeth and jawbone.
How are cephalometric X-rays taken?
Cephalometric X-rays are completely painless. The patient stands near the film plate where special positioners hold the head in a repeatable position. The exposure is then made, which is very brief, and exposes the body to a minimal amount of radiation - less than what we receive daily from natural sources.
After capturing cephalometric X-rays, the dentist will be able to see a complete side profile of the head. This can assist in orthodontic planning and allow an immediate evaluation of how orthodontic treatment might impact the facial profile and teeth.
If you have any questions or concerns about cephalometric X-rays, please ask your dentist.