What is an OPG (Orthopantomogram)?

An OPG is a panoramic X-ray of the upper and lower jaws, including the teeth. The unit is specifically designed to rotate around the patients head during the scan, which would take approximately 20 seconds.

An OPG can be used to look for:

  • Fractures 
  • Dislocated jaw
  • Infection
  • Dentition (teeth)

It can also be used for surgical planning.

An OPG also demonstrates the number, position and growth of all the teeth including those that have not yet surfaced or erupted through the gum. The scan can be particularly useful to check and to see areas like wisdom teeth, or the development of a child’s jaw and teeth. It is often used to check your TMJ (temporomandibular joint), sometimes called the CMA (cranio-mandibular articulation) especially if you grind your teeth.

The principle advantage of panoramic images / OPGs:

  • Broad coverage of facial bones and teeth including the TMJ (temporomandibular joint)
  • Low patient radiation dose
  • Convenience of examination for the patient
  • Ability to be used in patients who are restricted in opening their mouth

About the procedure

The OPG will be carried out by a radiographer (a health professional trained to perform imaging procedures). They will explain the procedure and make sure that you’re happy to go ahead with it. 

  • You will be asked to stand in front of the scanning machine. 
  • A peg will be put into a slot on the machine and you’ll be asked to bite onto this. 
  • Below the peg are two handles which you’ll need to hold to keep your balance as we may need to ask you to lean backwards to get the best possible picture. 
  • When you are in the right position, the radiographer will use a clamp to gently hold your head in place and stop it from moving. 
  • This doesn’t hurt. Once you are in place, the machine starts to move around your head. 
  • While it is moving it can touch your shoulders. Try not to move as this will blur the image and may mean the procedure has to be repeated. The test usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes 
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