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Tohoku University Undergraduate and Graduate Schools of Dentistry, Bringing Forth the Next Generation in Dentistry and Dental Treatment

Dean, Tohoku University School of Dentistry
Director, Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry
Nobuhiro Takahashi

Have you ever thought about what a mouth is?
--- It is "an entrance" which connects the outside world with our inner world. For example, we take food by mouth, and it also functions as a communication tool. --- We treat the outside world and others with our mouths as "Interface".

In 2002, we reaffirmed such a diverse and indispensable role of the oral cavity and presented a new concept of dentistry "Interface Oral Health Science (IOHS)". IOHS considers the oral cavity to be an "ecosystem" consisting of 3 systems: our tissues that form the mouth (tooth, oral mucosa, muscle, bone, etc.), the vast number of microorganisms that live there (oral microbiome), and dental biomaterials that are essential and inevitable for dental treatment, to which complex forces such as occlusal force are applied. Many oral diseases, such as dental caries and periodontal disease, are caused at "Interface" in which these systems come into contact with each other. Keeping these interfaces healthy prevents oral diseases and leads to the maintenance and improvement of oral functions. In addition, the oral cavity itself is an interface with the outside world, and people consume food to live as living organisms and communicate with others to live in society. The health of these functions is the foundation for each individual's biological and sociological health. In this era of the 100-year life, dentistry plays an extremely important role in extending the period of time during which people can continue to enjoy a healthy and high-quality life, or "healthy life expectancy".

Tohoku University School of Dentistry was established in April 1965 as Japan's third National University School of Dentistry (1965). Based on the three ideals, i.e. "Oral cavity as one unit" "Holistic dental care" and "Dentist with research mind", we aim at being an ideal educational and research institution in dentistry. First, "Oral cavity as one unit" is widely known in dental schools throughout Japan as a concept of dental care based on treatment plans that examine the entire oral cavity. Second, "Holistic dentistry" is not just dental care but is also a concept of medical care that aims at the health of people themselves and society as a whole, and is linked to the current comprehensive medical care through multidisciplinary and multi-institutional cooperation. These lofty ideals have enabled to nurture outstanding dentists and dental educators/researchers.

Tohoku University Undergraduate and Graduate Schools of Dentistry

The Graduate School of Dentistry was established in 1972, seven years after the foundation of the School of Dentistry. Since then, the Graduate School of Dentistry has focused on education and research based on the Tohoku University’s principles of "Research first", "Open doors” and “Practice-oriented research and education". Since proposing the new concept of IOHS in 2002 and clarifying the direction in which dental research should proceed, advanced research rooted in the uniqueness and universality of dentistry has been promoted through a number of research/education projects adopted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan. These projects are not carried out by the Graduate School of Dentistry alone but are carried out in collaboration with the Institute for Materials Research, the Graduate School of Medical Engineering and the Graduate School of Engineering, Tohoku University, and other universities. As a pioneer in the so-called "Interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary collaborative research", we have realized the concept of "Research First". With the aim of promoting the integration and collaboration of these fields, the Graduate School established "Liaison Center for Innovative Dentistry". It plays a vital role to connects research institutions, companies, and governments. The center also contributes to the globalization and "Practice-oriented research and education". These performances propel the return of research outcome back to the society (social implementation) through the overseas expansion of research and the development of medical devices/materials.

In 2004, we established the Japan’s first Master's course for the purpose of expanding the range of dental care and oral health, "Open doors" in dental science education and research. Students from various professions, ranging from medical and co-medical to engineering, nutrition science, health welfare and medical administration, are studying together at the Graduate School. As enhancement of education and research, we will increase the admission quota of the Master’s course in 2020 and strengthen its connections and cooperation with the Doctoral course.

As a hub in Asia, we have implemented education and research through international cooperation with the world’s leading dental schools. As proof of such, nearly 10% of undergraduates and approximately 1/4 of the graduate students are from overseas. It is common in the Graduate School of Dentistry that students, despite their nationalities, aspire to higher dental sciences with friendly rivalry. We believe such an environment is beneficial for students who will take the initiative in the global society. We also offer a variety of short-term study abroad programs through which students experience not only international exchange but also global standards in dentistry.

Tohoku University was originally established as the third Imperial University in Japan after Tokyo Imperial University and Kyoto Imperial University, and is now a designated national university along with these former Imperial Universities. Blessed with many academic assets and excellent human resources, Tohoku University keeps producing world-class results. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the cornerstone of Japan's future. As an integral faculty of Tohoku University, we are committed to education and research with pride and mission.