The immunopathogenesis of periodontal disease


Professor Gregory J Seymour
Faculty of Dentistry
University of Otago
PO Box 647
310 Great King Street
New Zealand


Treatment planning in periodontics, as with any disease, must be based on an understanding of the aetiology and pathogenesis of the disease. In this context, it has slowly become recognized over the past three decades that while plaque is the cause of the disease, it is the innate susceptibility of the host that determines the ultimate outcome of the disease process. Innate susceptibility, in turn, is determined by the nature of the immune response to the specific periodontopathic complexes comprising the plaque biofilm. The aim of this review was to examine current understanding of the immunopathogenesis of chronic periodontitis with respect to its possible clinical implications in terms of treatment planning and risk assessment. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the periodontitis lesion itself involves predominantly B cells and plasma cells, while the gingivitis lesion is primarily a T cell mediated response. This led to the concept over 30 years ago that the development of periodontitis involves a switch from a T cell lesion to one involving large numbers of B cells and plasma cells. It is also well recognized that control of this shift is mediated by a balance between the so-called Th1 and Th2 subsets of T cells, with chronic periodontitis being mediated by Th2 cells. More recently, T regulatory (Treg) and Th17 cells have been demonstrated in periodontal tissues, raising the possibility that these cells are also important in the immunoregulation of periodontal disease. The clinical implications of these observations can be seen in the fact that identification of Th1/Th2 and Treg/Th17 cytokine gene expression in the peripheral blood and salivary transcriptomes is now being trialled as a possible marker of disease susceptibility. If this proves to be the case, a chairside salivary diagnostic could be developed within the next five to 10 years.