Background: In periodontal clinical trials, clinical attachment level measurements are commonly used as surrogates for tooth loss. Conclusions regarding treatment efficacy in these trials are valid if: 1) the surrogate is informative on tooth loss, and 2) the surrogate captures the effect of treatment on tooth loss. The goal of this study was to evaluate the first criterion: Are serial clinical attachment loss measurements informative on overall tooth mortality?
Methods: Young Norwegian men (aged 17 to 35) were first examined in 1969 (n=565) and followed for 26 years with examinations in 1971 (n=381), 1973 (n=292), 1975 (n=245), 1981 (n=228), 1988 (n=202), and 1995 (n=223). Several aspects of the serial attachment loss measurements were related to tooth mortality risk using statistical models that take into account the time-dependent changes of the clinical attachment loss measurements.
Results: The results provided evidence that moderate attachment losses were informative on tooth mortality. Both the lifetime cumulative attachment loss, as well as attachment loss since young adulthood, of > or = 2 mm or > or = 3 mm was informative on tooth mortality. Tooth mortality risk increased as the attachment loss increased; loss > or = 3 mm at the buccal or mesial site increased tooth mortality risk, by 91% (relative risk, 1.91; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-3.60) and 270% (RR, 3.70; 95% CI, 1.83-7.49), respectively.
Conclusions: We concluded that clinical attachment loss was moderately informative on overall tooth mortality in this Norwegian population. Since this finding has now been demonstrated in 3 different populations, the focus of further research should be on evaluating whether the second criterion for a valid surrogate is satisfied: Does clinical attachment loss capture the effect of periodontal treatments on tooth loss?