Periodontitis, the most common chronic inflammatory condition known to mankind, is a disease that results in the destruction of tooth supporting tissues. Periodontitis is initiated by a bacterial biofilm on the tooth surface below the gingival margin. Until fairly recently it was assumed that the bacteria were the primary cause of tissue destruction, however, a large body of research has revealed that it is the patient's immune response that is actually responsible for the majority of the breakdown of tooth supporting tissues. Contemporary thinking suggests that successful, long term management of chronic periodontitis may combine both local mechanical and antimicrobial strategies to reduce the microbial bio-burden along with modulation of the host, patient's excessive, immuno-inflammatory response to the bacterial exposure known as host modulatory therapy (HMT). Based on extensive literature documenting the enzymatic inhibition and related anti-inflammatory properties of the tetracyclines, a new drug was developed as a host modulatory agent and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an adjunct to conventional scaling and root planing for the treatment of chronic periodontitis. A subantimicrobial dose of doxycycline (SDD) at 20 mg (Periostat(®)) has been found to be a safe and effective adjunct when taken twice daily for at least 3 months and up to 24 months in randomized placebo controlled clinical trials. Periostat(®) is currently the only FDA approved inhibitor of the matrix metalloproteinases implicated in the plaque-induced pathologic degradation of connective tissue collagen of the periodontal supporting structures. This review paper begins with a brief description of the disease process known as periodontitis followed by an extensive review of the Phase I-IV clinical trial data that established the safety and efficacy of sub-antimicrobial dose doxycycline (SDD) as an adjunct to scaling and root planing for the treatment of periodontitis.
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