What does the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry’s mission actually look like?

Our mission strives “…to certify pediatric dentists through a voluntary examination process that continuously validates their knowledge, skills and experience for delivering quality patient outcomes.” 

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Allow me to introduce you to a living example: Dr. Antonio Dario Cardenas, recent diplomate (2018), practitioner, educator, and role model. Dr. Cardenas completed pediatric dentistry training at The University of Illinois at Chicago in 1975, where he remained as faculty for two years before moving back to Colombia. After practicing and teaching in Colombia for 40 years, Dr. Cardenas returned to the U.S. to live closer to his three daughters and their children. Knowing he had much more to offer, he joined the School of Dentistry faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Becoming board certified is a major accomplishment and is even more exceptional late in a career when most think about slowing down. 

Greg Olson, DDS, MS, ABPD Director: Why did you decide to become board certified now?

Antonio Cardenas, DDS, MS: Becoming board certified was always something I wanted to do. Unfortunately, in 1975, the pathway to board certification was very different and became even more difficult when I returned to Colombia. I have always believed in teaching by example. It was also now more than ever the right thing to do, especially because I expect that my residents become certified. 

Olson: What was the most difficult part of the process and how did you overcome it?

Cardenas: Many people told me that I would pass easily. I did not believe them and decided to study just as any resident would. There was a lot of material such as genetics and syndromes. Many of the special needs and syndrome cases are rarely seen in private practice. I organized a study plan, set goals, then reserved time every day to study. Over time, I filled three notebooks with notes. Most importantly, I disciplined myself and kept with the plan.

Olson: What did you learn most from the process?

Cardenas: I learned that it is never too late and you are never too old to learn or to set and reach new goals. This experience was extremely rewarding. In addition to reviewing many things I had forgotten; it reaffirmed my belief that one should always be a student. 

Olson: Why do you keep learning and testing yourself?

Cardenas: I find great joy in learning and sharing this knowledge with my students and colleagues. About 90% of what I was taught in dental school is no longer valid. It would be unethical to practice with outdated techniques and knowledge. Furthermore, being an educator is a great responsibility and being a constant student is an important piece of the equation. One of my residency professors told me, “What you know, you owe. What you learn, you must share.”

Thank you, Dr. Cardenas, for showing us the importance of continued learning and growth. Thank you, on behalf of all patients, students and the Board, to all of you who share a similar commitment. 






Greg Olson, DDS, MS
Secretary, ABPD
Board Certified 2006
Houston, TX