Early detection of the most prevalent oral disease worldwide, i.e., dental caries, still remains as one of the major challenges in dentistry. The current dental standard of care relies on caries detection methods, such as visual inspection and x-ray radiography, which lack the sufficient specificity and sensitivity to detect caries at early stages of formation when they can be healed. We report on the feasibility of early caries detection in a clinically and commercially viable thermophotonic imaging system. The system incorporates intensity-modulated laser light along with a low-cost long-wavelength infrared (LWIR; 8 to ) camera, providing diagnostic contrast based on the enhanced light absorption of early caries. The LWIR camera is highly suitable for integration into clinical platforms because of its low weight and cost. In addition, through theoretical modeling, we show that LWIR detection enhances the diagnostic contrast due to the minimal LWIR transmittance of enamel and suppression of the masking effect of the direct thermal Planck emission. Diagnostic performance of the system and its detection threshold are experimentally evaluated by monitoring the inception and progression of artificially induced occlusal and smooth surface caries. The results are suggestive of the suitability of the developed LWIR system for detecting early dental caries.