Roles of Dental Care in Disaster Medicine in Japan

Junichi Yamazoe, Hisaki Naito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of Review: Natural disasters occur frequently in Japan. A disaster medical system was rapidly developed in Japan following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995. Dentistry has become increasingly important in disaster medicine. This review summarizes the roles of dental professionals in disaster medicine, highlights relevant issues, and identifies new directions for research to improve disaster relief activities based on our previous experiences as dental professionals supporting the victims of major disasters. Recent Findings: Many preventable deaths after a disaster are caused by aspiration pneumonia, which occurs against a background of factors that are compounded by a harsh living environment. An important aim of dental care in disaster medicine is to prevent these disaster-related deaths in vulnerable persons such as the elderly. This can be achieved through interventions to maintain oral hygiene, preserve and enhance oral function (i.e., chewing and swallowing), and improve the diet, since these interventions help to prevent the development of malnutrition and frailty in vulnerable people. Dental identification of disaster victims could be improved through the use of intraoral three-dimensional scanners and artificial intelligence to automate the acquisition of dental findings and through the construction of a national database of digitized dental records. Advances in personal identification methods will be needed given the prediction that a catastrophic earthquake will occur on the Nankai Trough during the next 30 years and claim more victims than the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Summary: Disaster-related deaths due to aspiration pneumonia can be prevented by providing appropriate dental care to those in need. The process of identifying victims could be made more efficient through the use of intraoral three-dimensional scanning, artificial intelligence, and a digital database of dental records. Establishing and strengthening relationships between professionals in different regions will help to optimize the multidisciplinary response to future large-scale disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Oral Health Reports
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Microbiology (miscellaneous)
  • Oral Surgery
  • Surgery


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