OBJECTIVES: To assess long-term attachment and periodontitis-related tooth loss (PTL) in untreated periodontal disease over 40 years.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Data originated from the natural history of periodontitis study in Sri Lankan tea labourers first examined in 1970. In 2010, 75 subjects (15.6%) of the original cohort were re-examined.
RESULTS: PTL over 40 years varied between 0 and 28 teeth (mean 13.1). Four subjects presented with no PTL, while 12 were edentulous. Logistic regression revealed attachment loss as a statistically significant covariate for PTL (p < .004). Markov chain analysis showed that smoking and calculus were associated with disease initiation and that calculus, plaque, and gingivitis were associated with loss of attachment and progression to advanced disease. Mean attachment loss <1.81 mm at the age of 30 yielded highest sensitivity and specificity (0.71) to allocate subjects into a cohort with a dentition of at least 20 teeth at 60 years of age.
CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight the importance of treating early periodontitis along with smoking cessation, in those under 30 years of age. They further show that calculus removal, plaque control, and the control of gingivitis are essential in preventing disease progression, further loss of attachment and ultimately tooth loss.