Background: The main therapeutic approach for periodontal diseases is mechanical treatment of root surfaces via scaling and root planing (SRP). Multicenter clinical trials have demonstrated that the adjunctive use of a chlorhexidine (CHX) chip is effective in improving clinical results compared to SRP alone. However, some recent studies failed to confirm these clinical results, and conflicting results were reported regarding the effects of the CHX chip on subgingival microflora. The aim of this study was to provide further data on the clinical and microbiologic effects of CHX chips when used as an adjunct to SRP.
Methods: A total of 116 systemically healthy individuals with moderate to advanced periodontitis, aged 33 to 65 years, were recruited from the Departments of Periodontology of four Italian universities. For each subject, two experimental sites were chosen that had probing depths (PD) > or =5 mm and bleeding on probing (BOP) and were located in two symmetric quadrants. These two sites were randomized at the split-mouth level, with one receiving SRP treatment alone and the other receiving treatment with SRP plus one CHX chip (SRP + CHX). PD, relative attachment level (RAL), and BOP were evaluated at baseline, prior to any treatment, and after 3 and 6 months. Supragingival plaque and the modified gingival index were evaluated at baseline and after 15 days and 1, 3, and 6 months. Subgingival microbiologic samples were harvested at baseline and after 15 days and 1, 3, and 6 months, cultured for total bacterial counts (TBCs), and investigated by polymerase chain reaction analysis for the identification of eight putative periodontopathogens.
Results: When all of the pockets were considered, the PD and RAL were significantly less at 3 and 6 months compared to the baseline scores (P <0.01) for both treatments. Moreover, the PD was reduced in the SRP + CHX treatment group compared to the SRP treatment group at 3 and 6 months, whereas the RAL was similar for both treatments at 3 months and was reduced in the SRP + CHX treatment group at 6 months. The differences in PD reductions between the treatments were 0.30 and 0.55 mm at 3 and 6 months, respectively (P <0.01); for the RAL gain, the differences were 0.28 and 0.64 mm, respectively (P <0.001). The TBCs decreased significantly with both treatments. A similar, although less evident, pattern was noted when only the pockets with an initial PD > or =7 mm were considered. The percentage of sites positive for BOP was similar between the treatments at each time point. At 15 days and 1 month, the TBC for the SRP + CHX treatment group was significantly lower than for the SRP treatment group (P <0.01 and P <0.05, respectively). Over time, both treatments generally reduced the percentages of sites positive for the eight putative periodontopathic bacteria, although greater reductions were seen often for the SRP + CHX treatment group.
Conclusions: The adjunctive use of the CHX chip resulted in a significant PD reduction and a clinical attachment gain compared to SRP alone. These results were concomitant with a significant benefit of SRP + CHX treatment on the subgingival microbiota.