Objective: The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review of the literature and to evaluate, in patients with chronic periodontitis, what the effect is of subgingival debridement (SGD), in terms of bleeding on probing, pocket depth and probing attachment level.
Material and methods: An electronic search of the Cochrane Oral Health Group specialized register and MEDLINE were performed using specific search terms to identify studies assessing in patients with chronic periodontitis the effect of subgingival debridement with regard to clinical outcomes. This was performed on titles registered up to 2001. The only papers included were those which utilized data based on the patient as unit of observation.
Results: The searches identified 702 abstracts. Titles and abstracts were independently screened by two reviewers (G.A.W. & M.F.T.) to identify publications that met specific inclusion criteria. The agreement between the two reviewers was assessed. The kappa score for agreement was 0.80. Review of these abstracts resulted in 114 publications for detailed review. Finally, 26 papers which met the criteria of eligibility were independently selected by the two reviewers. The kappa score for agreement on this decision was 0.92. Disagreement regarding inclusion of both abstracts and full papers was resolved by discussion between the reviewers. No randomized controlled trials (RCT) could be retrieved that were specifically designed to answer the question formulated at the outset of this systematic review. From the 10 controlled studies, four provide a definitive 'yes' that SGD is effective with regard to clinical outcomes. In the one study where subgingival debridement was not supported by oral hygiene instruction, the paper provided a definitive 'no'. The weighted mean of attachment gain of SGD in pockets initially >or=5 mm was 0.64 mm as compared with 0.37 mm for supragingival plaque control only (SPC). The reduction of pocket depth was 0.59 mm and 1.18 mm for SPC and SGD, respectively. Of the 18 papers that provided only information on the effect of treatment as compared with the baseline values, eight showed SGD to be beneficial with regard to clinical attachment level change while the remaining 10 provided no such an analysis. The weighted mean of this effect was a 0.74-mm gain of attachment as a result of treatment in pockets initially >or= 4 mm.
Conclusions: In patients with chronic periodontitis, subgingival debridement (in conjunction with supragingival plaque control) is an effective treatment in reducing probing pocket depth and improving the clinical attachment level. In fact it is more effective than supragingival plaque control alone.