Objective: The aim of the study was to assess the impact of undergraduate geriatric dentistry education on knowledge of ageing and on attitudes towards institutionalised elderly people, as perceived by recently graduated dentists.
Methods: A validated questionnaire was sent by mail to all dentists of the study group (n = 357). The questionnaire collected socio-demographic data, motives for pursuing a dental career, knowledge of ageing, attitude towards institutionalised elderly people using the Aging Semantic Differential (ASD), and aspects of geriatric dentistry education.
Results: Great variability between the six dental schools involved was observed in respect of the undergraduate education received in geriatric dentistry. Dentists’ knowledge of ageing was also low. The mean value of ASD-total indicated that in this study there was a negative attitude towards the institutionalised elderly. The covariate ‘financial motive for pursuing a dental career’ was the only item that seemed to have any significant influence on the ASD. Age was the only significant variable for knowledge. All other covariates were found not to have any influence.
Conclusions: From this study it would appear that the attitude of recently graduated dentists in Belgium towards the institutionalised elderly is rather negative and their knowledge of ageing is poor. The actual level of geriatric dentistry education in the undergraduate curriculum did not appear to influence this attitude, but Belgian dental schools are challenged to reorientate their provision of geriatric dentistry education to include activities that help to develop positive perceptions towards the elderly, with an empathic positive and caring attitude.