Purpose The digital panoramic radiography is widely used in dental clinics and provides the anatomical information of the intraoral structure along the predefined arc-shaped path. Since the intraoral structure varies depending on the patient, however, it is nearly impossible to design a common and static focal path or plane fitted to the dentition of all patients. In response, we introduce an imaging algorithm for digital panoramic radiography that can provide a focused panoramic radiographic image for all patients, by automatically estimating the best focal plane for each patient. Methods The aim of this study is to improve the image quality of dental panoramic radiography based on a three-dimensional (3D) dynamic focal plane. The plane is newly introduced to represent the arbitrary 3D intraoral structure of each patient. The proposed algorithm consists of three steps: preprocessing, focal plane estimation, and image reconstruction. We first perform preprocessing to improve the accuracy of focal plane estimation. The 3D dynamic focal plane is then estimated by adjusting the position of the image plane so that object boundaries in the neighboring projection data are aligned or focused on the plane. Finally, a panoramic radiographic image is reconstructed using the estimated dynamic focal plane. Results The proposed algorithm is evaluated using a numerical phantom dataset and four clinical human datasets. In order to examine the image quality improvement owing to the proposed algorithm, we generate panoramic radiographic images based on a conventional static focal plane and estimated 3D dynamic focal planes, respectively. Experimental results show that the image quality is dramatically improved for all datasets using the 3D dynamic focal planes that are estimated from the proposed algorithm. Conclusions We propose an imaging algorithm for digital panoramic radiography that provides improved image quality by estimating dynamic focal planes fitted to each individual patient's intraoral structure.