The cephalometric X-ray is a unique tool, which enables the orthodontist to capture a complete radiographic image of the side of the face. X-rays in general offer the orthodontist 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 film is exposed to ionizing radiation in order to provide the dentist with pictures of the entire oral structure.
Cephalometric X-rays are not as common as “full sets” or bitewing X-rays, but they serve several important functions:
Provide views of the side profile of the face.
Provide views of the jaw in relation to the cheekbone.
Provide information about “bad bites” or malocclusions.
Allow measurement of the teeth.
Identify fractures and other injuries to the teeth and jawbone.
Assists in orthodontic planning.
How are cephalometric X-rays taken?
Cephalometric X-rays are completely painless. The head is held with plastic ear rods to stabilize and align the head at a specific distance from the x-ray source and film.
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 braces might impact the facial profile and teeth.
If you have any questions or concerns about cephalometric X-rays, please ask your dentist.