Sociobehavioral aspects of periodontal disease


  • W. Murray Thomson,

  • Aubrey Sheiham,

  • A. John Spencer


As one of the most common chronic diseases suffered by adults, periodontitis affects sufferers’ day-to-day lives and is a threat to the integrity of the dentition. An important part in the condition’s occurrence is played by sociobehavioural factors, the understanding of which is facilitated by using a number of largely complementary theoretical frameworks. Differences among individuals with respect to their periodontal status at any particular point in their life-course (and particularly once they are into early middle-age and beyond) are likely to have resulted from prolonged and differential exposure to the various protective and risk factors that determine their periodontal status. Thus, a sound understanding of the psychosocial pathways of the behaviors that are strongly linked to periodontal disease – and how such psychological factors affect the response of the periodontal tissues to pathogens – is essential for improving periodontal health, whether at the personal level or at the population level. Controlling periodontitis in populations therefore requires a number of complementary strategies. The current state of knowledge of its risk factors means that there is sufficient information to enable control of the disease, and public health officials should include it alongside their efforts to control dental caries. Controlling periodontitis has three strategies: (i) a population strategy for altering life practices, particularly those determining smoking behavior and oral self-care (plaque removal) in the community; (ii) a secondary prevention strategy to detect and treat people with destructive periodontal disease; and (iii) a high-risk strategy for treating existing disease and preventing further disease in those at special risk. The Common Risk Factor Approach and the health promotion approach are key aspects of these strategies.