OBJECTIVE: To describe attitudes towards the aged and changes in attitudes of dental students during their participation in an undergraduate gerodontology programme. BACKGROUND: Attitudes of dentists have been shown to influence their willingness to provide dental services to the aged. METHODS: A questionnaire was administered to 160 (50 men) dental students at Leipzig University aged 19.2-30.5 (mean, 21.7; SD, 2.3) years before entering (T1) and when completing (T2) a gerodontology course. A definition of being young and old and of hopes and fears associated with age was requested. The semantic ageing differential (SAD) was used to measure the students' attitudes towards the aged in three categories. Statistical analysis comprised mean age definitions by gender and mean scores of the SAD at T1 and T2. RESULTS: Old age was defined as beginning between 56 and 64 years. Female students at T1 regarded a woman as young up to 35.8 years, for male students a woman was young only up to 33.5 years. Male students consider men as old from 60.1 years and women 4.4 years earlier from 55.7 years. Old age fears related mainly to impairment of health and loss of relatives. Hopes for relaxation, rest and serenity were paramount. The SAD results were near neutral in all three dimensions. Minor changes between T1 and T2 occurred. CONCLUSION: Students' attitudes were well balanced. Specific barriers to the provision of dental care to the aged emanating from dental students' negative attitudes or fears were not identified. Changes in attitudes occurring during the course appeared small.