Original Publication
Open Access

A Physician's Guide to Identifying Pediatric Dental Decay and Common Oral Pathology

Published: August 20, 2012 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9223

Included in this publication:

  • A Physician's Guide to Identifying Pediatric Dental Decay and Common Oral Pathology Instructor's Guide.doc
  • A Physicians Guide to Identifying Pediatric Dental Decay and Common Oral Pathology.pdf
  • BOHC Toolkit.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


For most children, the entry point into the health care system is through primary care physicians and pediatricians. Oral health is just one of the many areas that medical providers are responsible to evaluate, but because clinicians often receive so little training in this area it is likely that they will only be able to diagnose very obvious deviations from the healthy dental state. Therefore, this visual guide was developed to address the specific need for a sophisticated tutorial on the visual presentation of early childhood caries and common pediatric oral pathology. Since one of the most important aspects of the oral exam is the preparation and positioning of the patient, this tutorial demonstrates the knee-to-knee examination position. This technique places the child at ease, and is recommended as an excellent method for visualizing the mouths of very young children. The tutorial also focuses on the recognition of the mild or incipient stage of dental decay, the white spot lesion. It has recently been reported that approximately 70% of medical students receive less than 5 hours of oral health training, with 10% receiving no training at all. In order for physicians to effectively screen young children they must be able to recognize the signs of early dental disease.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this resource, learners will be able to:

  1. Understand the proper placement of a child patient for an oral exam.
  2. Understand the appearance of white spot lesions.
  3. Diagnose frank dental caries in children under 6 years of age.
  4. Differentiate normal tooth variants from the disease state.
  5. Recognize common pediatric oral pathology.
  6. Understand therapeutic modalities physicians and dentists can use to treat dental decay.

Author Information

None to report.

None to report.


Nelson T. A physician's guide to identifying pediatric dental decay and common oral pathology. MedEdPORTAL. 2012;8:9223. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9223

This publication is co-sponsored by the American Dental Education Association.