Background: Periodontitis is an immune-inflammatory disease that leads to the progressive destruction of bone and connective tissue in the periodontal area. The cytokine network plays a primary role in tissue homeostasis, the recruitment of immune cells to control the pathogenic impact and the regulation of osteoclastic function, thus modulating the intensity and duration of the immune response. This review provides an update on the main cytokines implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of periodontitis and their targeting potential in order to enrich current treatment options.
Methods: A structured search of bibliographic databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus) was performed for peer-reviewed cytokine studies focused on periodontitis the last ten years. A qualitative content analysis was performed in screened papers and a critical discussion of main findings is provided.
Results: An altered cytokine profile has been detected in periodontitis patients and the interplay of pro-inflammatory and/or anti-inflammatory cytokines has been associated with disease pathogenesis. Among the most prominent pro-inflammatory cytokines, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-17, IL-6 and the chemokines CXCL-6, CXCL-8 are overexpressed in periodontitis patients and correlate with disease progression. On the other hand, the anti-inflammatory IL-4 and IL- 11 levels are reduced while IL-12 and IFN-γ expression play a dual role in periodontal disease. Current periodontitis treatment strategies include selective antibiotics, antimicrobial photodynamic therapy and probiotics, which can modulate the cytokine network and when applied in combination with specific anti-cytokine agents can exert additional beneficial effects.
Conclusion: It is evident that cytokines play a central regulatory role in the inflammatory process and immune cell response that underlies bone destruction in periodontitis. Specific cytokine targeting should be considered as a complementary therapeutic scheme to current periodontal management.