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J Dent Educ. 2005 Apr;69(4):419-33.

Understanding dental students' knowledge and perceptions of older people: toward a new model of geriatric dental education.

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Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program, Department of Restorative Dentistry, School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, 215 Squire Hall, 3435 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.


Increasing numbers of older people and the decreasing rates of edentulism highlight the importance of dental education that focuses on oral health and aging. This evaluation study assessed dental students' knowledge and beliefs about older people as well as their awareness of the biopsychosocial concerns that are potential barriers to oral health care. Dental students' (N=202) knowledge and perceptions of older people were evaluated before and after the first year of a new educational program. Students completed the Palmore Facts on Aging Quiz II (FAQ II) and answered questions about health problems and social concerns that may influence patient care. The intervention was twofold: 1) the CARES (Counseling, Advocacy, Referral, Education, and Service) Program, a clinical collaboration between the schools of Dental Medicine and Social Work, was initiated; and 2) all students were exposed to geriatric educational interventions. FAQ II scores did not significantly change, but dental students' awareness of mental health, independence, and social concerns increased between Times 1 and 2. The results of the study suggest that positive interactions with older adults by health care providers may depend more on positive perceptions toward older people than increased knowledge about aging. Future research will focus on positive experiences with older adults and attitudes of dental students toward the elderly.

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