Objective: To evaluate the influence of examiner experience on the variability of periodontal probing depth measurements obtained by conventional manual probing.
Method and materials: Thirty subjects with a diagnosis of chronic periodontitis were evaluated by an experienced examiner using an electronic probe and randomly assigned to 3 groups. Examiners with different levels of experience (undergraduate students, postgraduate students, and associate professors) evaluated each group with a manual probe. Electronic and conventional probing were repeated 45 days after cause-related periodontal therapy.
Results: A total of 8,127 periodontal sites were evaluated at the baseline examination and reassessment. Agreement between methods was satisfactory at the baseline examination (kappa = 0.45; P < .001) and reassessment (kappa = 0.42; P < .001). The best agreement between electronic and manual probing at the baseline examination was obtained by the postgraduate students (kappa = 0.66) and at reassessment by the associate professors (kappa = 0.60). Undergraduate students obtained the lowest agreement values in both examinations (kappa = 0.42 and 0.11, respectively).
Conclusion: Examiner experience has direct influence on the accuracy of measurements. Dental schools must evaluate if the methodology employed to teach the use of conventional manual probing is effectively qualifying their students for dental practice.