BACKGROUND: The use of modulating agents, including inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) with antiproteinases, blocking production of proinflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins with anti-inflammatory drugs, and inhibiting activation of osteoclasts with bone-sparing agents, has been postulated to be of therapeutic value as an adjunctive therapy to the management of chronic periodontitis. RATIONALE: The objective of this systematic review of the literature was to assess the adjunctive efficacy of antiproteinase, anti-inflammatory, and bone-sparing host-modulating agents in the treatment of gingivitis, aggressive periodontitis, and chronic periodontitis. FOCUSED QUESTIONS: 1. In patients with periodontal diseases, what is the effect of host-modulation agents, alone or combined with conventional therapy, compared to conventional therapy alone as assessed by clinical, radiographic, adverse, and patient-centered outcomes? 2. In patients with dental implants, what is the effect of host-modulation agents on implant success assessed by clinical, radiographic, adverse, and patient-centered outcomes? SEARCH PROTOCOL: MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases were searched without language restrictions through April 1, 2002 for studies that used tetracycline (TET)-related matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitors, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and bisphosphonate anti-osteolytic agents. The investigation also included hand searching of journals and contacting authors and industry experts. SELECTION CRITERIA: INCLUSION CRITERIA: Only human studies (randomized controlled clinical trials, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, and case series) were selected. Studies were on subjects with gingivitis, aggressive or chronic periodontitis, or dental implants. Interventions included TET-related MMP inhibitors, NSAIDs, or bisphosphonate anti-osteolytic agents. EXCLUSION CRITERIA: Studies that used MMP tissue inhibitors as diagnostic or prognostic indicators of periodontal disease or that evaluated short-term systemic antibodies or locally delivered levels of drugs with antiproteinase activity were excluded. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: The primary outcomes for assessment were changes in bone or clinical attachment levels (CAL); secondary outcomes included clinical measures of plaque, gingival inflammation, probing depth (PD), and mobility. Summary data appropriate for meta-analysis were pooled using a weighted average and analyzed using a standardized difference; the results were checked with both fixed-effects and random-effects models. MAIN RESULTS: 1. A meta-analysis done on the studies reporting changes in CAL and PD following administration of sub-antimicrobial doses of doxycycline (SDD) in conjunction with scaling and root planing (SRP) in patients with periodontitis showed a statistically significant beneficial adjunctive effect. 2. There were insufficient data to provide meta-analyses on periodontal patients treated with other host-modulating agents; descriptive tables are included. 3. NSAIDS show promise in their ability to slow periodontal disease. 4. Preliminary data on bisphosphonate agents indicate there is a potential role for these agents in periodontitis management. 5. There are a very limited number of studies on host-modulating agents and dental implants and no analyses were possible. 6. Because the treatment methodologies and clinical variables differed considerably among the studies, it is difficult to summarize the information and identify a reliable total patient population. REVIEWERS' CONCLUSIONS: 1. Large multi-center trials are needed to evaluate the role of host-modulating agents in the treatment of periodontitis. 2. NSAIDS and bisphosphonate drugs may have a potential adjunctive role in periodontal therapy. 3. The adjunctive use of SDD with SRP is statistically more effective than SRP alone in reducing PD and in achieving CAL gain.