Site-Specific Attachment Level Change Detected by Physical Probing in Untreated Chronic Adult Periodontitis: Review of Studies 1982-1997

Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine and Pathology, Guy's School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK.
Journal of Periodontology (Impact Factor: 2.71). 04/1999; 70(3):312-28. DOI: 10.1902/jop.1999.70.3.312
Source: PubMed


Site-specific attachment level change, detected from sequential physical probing measurements, is currently the most common method of determining the progression/regression or stability of disease status in subjects with chronic adult periodontitis. The sensitivity and accuracy of detection is dependent on the type of probe used, the recording method, the measurement error, and the method of data analysis. In recent years, there has been world-wide interest in developing instruments and methods to minimize measurement error. Published data report disturbingly wide variation in the prevalences and rates of site-specific attachment level change which are difficult to reconcile with biological likelihood. The present paper aims to summarize the salient points from the key studies and to compare the results.
The literature between 1982 and 1997 was reviewed for studies in which site-specific attachment level change was detected by physical probing methods in patients with chronic adult periodontitis.
The review documents 23 studies by probe generation, compares methods and results and summarizes the results according to the thresholds and probe type used. The 23 studies used an array of probe types from the 3 probe generations.
From this review, we conclude that: 1) There are surprisingly few papers which have addressed the question of site-specific attachment level change in untreated chronic adult periodontitis. 2) There are considerable differences in the probes used, in the thresholds achieved, in the number of measurements taken, in the number of subjects and sites studied, and in the duration of the studies. Valid comparisons between studies are, therefore, rarely possible. 3) Only 8 out of 23 papers from 1982 to 1997 have adequate data. Most papers report only losing sites and therefore ignore many of the measurements recorded. Only one paper describes losing sites, gaining sites, and sites showing exacerbation/remission patterns of change. 4) The range of changes described show such variation that it has to be concluded that we cannot reliably detect site-specific attachment level change by physical probing and thus, at the end of the 20th century, we have no clear idea of the natural history of this disease.

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