Dental X-ray, OPG

While your dentist has adequate x-ray equipment to check your teeth for common dental problems, you might be referred to Mackay Radiology for more advanced imaging. A dental x-ray or OPG is a medical text that enables your dentist, orthodontist, oral surgeon or prosthodontist or doctor to diagnose and treat medical conditions. X-ray imaging uses a small, harmless dose of ionising radiation to create an image of the problem area.

OPG – orthopantogram

Your teeth and gums are supported by the lower jaw and upper maxilla, which are both U-shaped. In order to gain an extended view, engineers developed a clever x-ray machine that moves both the x-ray beam and detector around you in an arc, while you remain seated. The resultant x-ray is a panoramic x-ray called an OPG – an image slice that shows the mandible and teeth in sharp focus, but blurs other structures. An OPG examines existing or potential dental disease, such as:

  • Dental caries
  • Advanced periodontal disease such as inflammation or abscess
  • Oral cysts
  • Tumours and oral cancer
  • Impacted teeth
  • Sinusitis and other facial sinus problems
  • Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and
  • Assessment prior to wisdom teeth extraction.

What to expect

A radiographer will sit you in the centre of the OPG machine and then carefully position and secure your head. The machine is adjusted for your height and a bite-block is place between your teeth to ensure correct alignment.

You’ll need to keep very still during the imaging process, while the rotating arm moves in a semicircle around you, which usually takes around 20 seconds. An OPG x-ray requires no special preparation and you can return to normal activities straight after your test.


A cephalogram is a standard x-ray of the bone and soft tissues of the head and face taken in a lateral view, which enables accurate measurements of the facial bones and jaw. Oral surgeons, orthodontists and prosthodontists request cepalograms prior to planning surgery and manipulation of teeth.

The patient lies on the x-ray table with the head turned to the side, to obtain a side-on (lateral) view.

Temporo-mandibular joint x-ray

Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are medical problems related to the jaw joint, which connects the jaw or mandible to the temporal bone at each side of the head. As you open and close your mouth each time you talk, chew, sing or yawn, your jaw condyles glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. Standard x-rays of the TMJs are taken in the open and closed position for each side. Additional, advanced medical imaging, such as arthrogram or CT might also be needed to fully assess the TMJs.

All Mackay Radiology radiographers have the necessary qualifications and experience to ensure the best patient care and high-quality x-rays, and are accredited and licensed by Queensland Health and the Australian Institute of Radiographers.

 After your dental x-ray

One of our radiologists will interpret your dental x-rays and provide your doctor with a comprehensive report about the findings. You will need to return to the dental practitioner who referred you to discuss your results. Processing and reporting of your images could take up to two hours. For your convenience we can generally deliver the images and report to your dentist, by lunchtime on the next working day.

If you require the results for a follow up appointment on the day of the scan, you can wait for the films and we will fax or email the results to your dentist. Some of our referring dentists prefer that their patients wait for their films after the scan. You may arrange to collect the films at an alternative time, if you prefer that option.