Reading OPG’s

How does the Dentist Read your OPG?

As we have mentioned, the OPG shows us your whole mouth, teeth, jaws, and the bones of your face. Where we focus our attention will depend on the reasons why we took the X-ray in the first place. Of course, you will end up discovering other incidental things during process but the main reasons we choose this view include:

  • Monitoring growth and development. When children start losing their baby teeth, we may want to assess the degree of development and check the presence and position of the adult teeth that are coming through. Teeth tend to come through in certain order between certain ages- if a tooth that should be there isn’t, or the normal sequence of teeth is disrupted, we may want to check what’s going with this type of X-ray.
  • Gum disease or periodontal screening. This allows us to have a good look at the bone levels for all the teeth and identify areas that require treatment and further investigation.
  • Wisdom teeth. The X-ray shows how close the roots of your lower wisdom teeth lie to the ID nerve canal and allow us to assess the risk of trauma to this during extraction. They also allow the dentist to predict the difficulty of the extraction(s) and decide whether the case should be handled by an oral surgeon. Sometimes wisdom teeth that are un-erupted (not visible in the mouth) give trouble and the only way we can visualise this is with this X-ray.
  • General screening for patients with multiple problems. Patients who haven’t been to the dentist for many years, often present with multiple problems and this view allows us to very quickly get a good idea of the shape of the mouth and identify areas for further investigation. It’s not uncommon to see teeth that require root canals, undiagnosed gum disease, occasional bony cysts and other abnormalities.
  • TMJ problems- If you are having problems with opening your mouth, or tenderness, or soreness in your jaw, we may want to assess your joint and rule out any other reasons you might be experiencing such problems.
  • Pain- If the signs and symptoms of your pain are a little confusing, or multiple problems are potentially complicating the diagnosis, an OPG can help give us a really good overview.
  • Implant assessment. Before having an implant it is important for the dentist to assess the amount, thickness and quality of bone to see if there is sufficient available for the implant. They will also check the surrounding areas of the mouth and important structures such your sinuses and the nerves in the area where the treatment is planned. The view may also be used to check osseo- integration (how the implant is attaching to your bone) and the progress of multiple implants following the surgery.
  • Orthodontic reasons. These are taken to assess the growth and development of your teeth and jaws when planning treatment with braces. For example, if your canines have gone a little off track (quite a common problem) and have become impacted, they may need to be located and exposed by an oral surgeon to help bring them down into line.
  • Sinusitis. Sometimes this can be misinterpreted by a patient as toothache and if all dental causes have been ruled out and mucous can be seen in the maxillary antrum, decongestants are a good place to start!.
  • Facial fractures. In the hospital- more so than private practice- the OPG is used to identify fractures of the orbit (eye socket), cheek bones and jaws.
  • Unusual Complaints. If there is no obvious explanation for the signs and symptoms, it may be taken to see if something else is going on around the teeth, or in the jaw bone- such as a cyst or tumour.