What Are Orthodontic Dental Records?

Orthodontic Records Can Make a Difference in Your Oral Health

If you are seeing a new dentist or orthodontist or getting a second opinion, she may ask for your orthodontic records. What exactly are these and why are they important? How can you get your records when you see a new healthcare provider?

A dental x-ray in a doctors office
Andersen Ross / Digital Vision / Getty Images

What Are Orthodontic Dental Records?

Your dentist or orthodontist has your orthodontic records on file, but what exactly are they? Orthodontic records are used by dentists and orthodontists as a sort of study aid to provide patients with the best, individualized orthodontic treatment plan possible.

Why Orthodontic Dental Records Are Important

When a person becomes a candidate for orthodontic treatment, their dentist considers their records when assembling a treatment plan. The dentist or orthodontist will put together all of the patient's potential treatment options.

Orthodontic records can also be used throughout the course of treatment to track progress over time, and they also become part of a person's dental records.

Types of Orthodontic Dental Records

If you are seeing a new provider, it's important to have all of your records. In analogy, if you were to see a new physician she may wish to have copies not only of your clinic visits with another physician but also lab results and X-ray studies. All of these studies and notes are looked at and reviewed in order to make the most accurate recommendations for your health. Likewise, in dentistry and orthodontics, there are several types of records which are looked at together in order to make the best recommendations and track your progress. Orthodontic records should include:

  • Dental impressions
  • Panoramic X-rays
  • Cephalometric X-rays
  • Intraoral and extraoral photos

Let's take a look at each of these separately to make sure you have all of your information.

Dental Impressions

Also known as alginate impressions, dental impressions are used to obtain an accurate 3-dimensional replica of a person's mouth. Models of the mouth are made by pouring stone into the set impression material. These study models are used by the dentist to examine the current position of a person's teeth and predict the future relationship between the upper and lower teeth. Study models are also used as a permanent record by the dentist, kept on file as part of your patient records.

Dental impressions are used not only for orthodontic work, but to create mouth guards, crowns, retainers, veneers, dentures, and more.

Panoramic X-Ray

panoramic X-ray, also known as a panorex or pan, is 2-dimensional and displays the upper and lower jaws and teeth in the same piece of film. A panoramic X-ray is useful for adolescents in particular because the dentist can see the developing teeth and predict where they will erupt in the mouth.

People who are experiencing a delay in the eruption of their teeth will require this X-ray at an earlier age in order to rule out missing or impacted teeth. Adults who are considering orthodontic treatment will typically have this X-ray taken in order for the dentist to see the current health and level of the jawbone.

Panorex films are used for orthodontic work and to determine if wisdom teeth are impacted.

Cephalometric X-Ray 

The cephalometric X-ray, or ceph for short, is an X-ray that captures the side profile of a person from the top of their head to just below the tip of the chin. The ceph includes the teeth and bone, and soft tissues are also distinguishable, which helps the dentist or orthodontist predict how the bone structure will change during orthodontic treatment. The dentist or orthodontist will use tracing paper and trace the ceph using important landmarks on the X-ray.

Cephalometric films are used in orthodontia, but may also be used in the diagnosis of medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

Intraoral & Extraoral Photos

Intraoral (inside the mouth) and extraoral (outside the mouth) dental photos are taken of a person's teeth and face. These photos are used to determine the current external classification of a person's profile, as well as a permanent record to keep on file as a part of your dental records. 

Bottom Line on Your Orthodontic Dental Records

Just as copies of your medical records are important in choosing the best medical care and following your progress, orthodontic dental records are critical in the diagnosis and treatment planning for any orthodontic work which you have done. It's important to note that there are several different types of these records, and all are important in different ways.

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By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.