Can you name six? Seven? Let’s go for double that figure! (And we won’t include decay, as it’s not the best diagnostic tool of decay. Well, on second thought, maybe we will include some possible decay-related findings at the end of our discussion.)
The panoramic should be taken when any permanent teeth are erupting. Often those first eruptions are the lower incisors, or the six-year molars, but no matter what teeth, take the pano then. (You may find opportunity to change the child’s life because of the secrets that x-ray holds.)
Start by counting/identifying all teeth (Sounds pretty tame and familiar so far!) :
- Missing teeth. Count ‘em. Every single one. Be sure. Most often upper lateral incisors, and bicuspids, but maybe any incisor, any tooth actually. While severe “anodontia” is typically related to Ectodermal Dysplasia, and other developmental disorders, any permanent tooth can be missing even without identifiable developmental disorders "with names.”
- Extra teeth. Supernumerary teeth can be anywhere. One of my patients had one that looked like a canine, but about the size of a primary canine, in the floor of the nose, over the bicuspid root area.
- Malformed and unusual teeth. While ectopic and unusual trajectories of eruptive paths can cause dilacerations, there may be malformed crowns as well. Note any taurodontic primary molars that may hinder exfoliation, dilacerated roots that may hinder eruption, or if the dilacerated root is next to a missing tooth space, it could prevent implant later. Notice now. Notice incisors with talon lingual cusps/dens evaginates, and shovel-shaped incisors with scooped out lingual surfaces which may be more at risk of decay at the cuspal interfaces, and may create occlusal issues in contact with the lower incisors.
- Variations in sizes of teeth. Notice particularly large lateral incisors as well as peg or small laterals which may also interfere with occlusal harmony.
- Fused or possibly fused teeth; or geminated teeth.
- Ectopic teeth positions, which can portend huge difficulties in getting the teeth into the arch later, or even contribute to transpositions of teeth, and certainly to extended orthodontic treatment. If normal eruption does not occur, ectopic teeth may need to be orthodontically moved over larger than normal distances, and past other tooth roots. This predisposes both the ectopic teeth as well as the teeth in the path of the movement to potential damage, including root resorption, loss of vitality, alveolar bone loss and gingival and per problems, and some ankylose,
- Stage of exfoliation and eruption
- Poorly resorbing roots on primary teeth - is it due to ectopic position of succedaneous permanent tooth? Is the permanent successor missing?
- Submerged primary molars - actually probably due to an ankylosis or other failure of the tooth to undergo normal eruptive growth with the adjacent teeth.
- Crowding. Eruption issues to come. Opportunity to clear the path of eruption and prevent more complex problems and need for extended treatments.
- Third molar positions. While not usually evident in the earliest mixed dentition panoramic x-ray, often are notable within a year or two. Horizontal and severe ectopic positions may affect the eruption of the twelve year molars, and should be monitored for need for early removal to allow eruption of the twelve year molars.
- Twelve year molars that do not have the space to erupt in the mandible. As human jaws get smaller, and teeth do not, we are seeing more 12 year molars that will never be able to clear the mandibular ramus, like many third molars. Not frequent, but more and more so.
- Class II or III occlusion (at least as screening, to be evaluated further.)
- Atypical incisive papilla alveolar bone area. Again, screening, to be confirmed with diastema, low and deep pull frenum, etc.
Here’s an important opportunity to do outstanding diagnosis for your patient, and be paid for your care. You’re in dentistry to care for people, and in business to make a living.