Clinical parameters used to monitor periodontal patients are usually measures of the disease process. They are considered surrogate variables because changes in their status are interpreted to have an impact on the ultimate goal of periodontal therapy, which is tooth retention. However, their ability to reflect tooth survivability has been questioned because there is a lack of long-term data to validate that stable or improved surrogates result in reduced tooth loss. Therefore, to clarify the utility of employing surrogates to reflect long-term tooth retention, a number of issues related to their use are discussed in this commentary: phraseology, benefits and shortcomings, biologic credibility, and their previous successful utilization in monitoring the effects of therapy. This commentary supports the reasonableness of using surrogates to monitor periodontal status and suggests that a combination of surrogates that represent "periodontal clinical health" should be considered a true endpoint of periodontal therapy, since this outcome provides a condition conducive to tooth retention.
J Periodontol 2005;76:1398-1402.