Primary prevention of periodontitis: managing gingivitis

J Clin Periodontol. 2015 Apr:42 Suppl 16:S71-6. doi: 10.1111/jcpe.12366.


Periodontitis is a ubiquitous and irreversible inflammatory condition and represents a significant public health burden. Severe periodontitis affects over 11% of adults, is a major cause of tooth loss impacting negatively upon speech, nutrition, quality of life and self-esteem, and has systemic inflammatory consequences. Periodontitis is preventable and treatment leads to reduced rates of tooth loss and improved quality of life. However, successful treatment necessitates behaviour change in patients to address lifestyle risk factors (e.g. smoking) and, most importantly, to attain and sustain high standards of daily plaque removal, lifelong. While mechanical plaque removal remains the bedrock of successful periodontal disease management, in high-risk patients it appears that the critical threshold for plaque accumulation to trigger periodontitis is low, and such patients may benefit from adjunctive agents for primary prevention of periodontitis.

Aim: The aims of this working group were to systematically review the evidence for primary prevention of periodontitis by preventing gingivitis via four approaches: 1) the efficacy of mechanical self-administered plaque control regimes; 2) the efficacy of self-administered inter-dental mechanical plaque control; 3) the efficacy of adjunctive chemical plaque control; and 4) anti-inflammatory (sole or adjunctive) approaches.

Methods: Two meta-reviews (mechanical plaque removal) and two traditional systematic reviews (chemical plaque control/anti-inflammatory agents) formed the basis of this consensus.

Results: Data support the belief that professionally administered plaque control significantly improves gingival inflammation and lowers plaque scores, with some evidence that reinforcement of oral hygiene provides further benefit. Re-chargeable power toothbrushes provide small but statistically significant additional reductions in gingival inflammation and plaque levels. Flossing cannot be recommended other than for sites of gingival and periodontal health, where inter-dental brushes (IDBs) will not pass through the interproximal area without trauma. Otherwise, IDBs are the device of choice for interproximal plaque removal. Use of local or systemic anti-inflammatory agents in the management of gingivitis has no robust evidence base. We support the almost universal recommendations that all people should brush their teeth twice a day for at least 2 min. with fluoridated dentifrice. Expert opinion is that for periodontitis patients 2 min. is likely to be insufficient, especially when considering the need for additional use of inter-dental cleaning devices. In patients with gingivitis once daily inter-dental cleaning is recommended and the adjunctive use of chemical plaque control agents offers advantages in this group.

Keywords: NSAIDs; adverse effects; anti-inflammatory agents; chemical plaque control; floss; gingivitis; inter-dental brushes; inter-dental cleaning; manual toothbrushes; mechanical plaque control; meta-analysis; meta-review; oral hygiene instruction; periodontitis; power toothbrushes; primary prevention; safety; secondary prevention; self-administered care regimes; systematic review; water irrigator; wood sticks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dental Devices, Home Care
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control
  • Dentifrices / therapeutic use
  • Gingivitis / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Periodontitis / prevention & control*
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Self Care
  • Toothbrushing / methods


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dentifrices