Objective To examine whether treatment of periodontal disease with scaling and root planing during pregnancy is associated with a reduction in the preterm birth rate.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.
Data sources Cochrane Central Trials Registry, ISI Web of Science, Medline, and reference lists of relevant studies to July 2010; hand searches in key journals.
Study selection Randomised controlled trials including pregnant women with documented periodontal disease randomised to either treatment with scaling and root planing or no treatment.
Data extraction Data were extracted by two independent investigators, and a consensus was reached with the involvement a third. Methodological quality of the studies was assessed with the Cochrane’s risk of bias tool, and trials were considered either high or low quality. The primary outcome was preterm birth (<37 weeks). Secondary outcomes were low birthweight infants (<2500 g), spontaneous abortions/stillbirths, and overall adverse pregnancy outcome (preterm birth <37 weeks and spontaneous abortions/stillbirths).
Results 11 trials (with 6558 women) were included. Five trials were considered to be of high methodological quality (low risk of bias), whereas the rest were low quality (high or unclear risk of bias). Results among low and high quality trials were consistently diverse; low quality trials supported a beneficial effect of treatment, and high quality trials provided clear evidence that no such effect exists. Among high quality studies, treatment had no significant effect on the overall rate of preterm birth (odds ratio 1.15, 95% confidence interval 0.95 to 1.40; P=0.15). Furthermore, treatment did not reduce the rate of low birthweight infants (odds ratio 1.07, 0.85 to 1.36; P=0.55), spontaneous abortions/stillbirths (0.79, 0.51 to 1.22; P=0.28), or overall adverse pregnancy outcome (preterm births <37 weeks and spontaneous abortions/stillbirths) (1.09, 0.91 to 1.30; P=0.34).
Conclusion Treatment of periodontal disease with scaling and root planing cannot be considered to be an efficient way of reducing the incidence of preterm birth. Women may be advised to have periodical dental examinations during pregnancy to test their dental status and may have treatment for periodontal disease. However, they should be told that such treatment during pregnancy is unlikely to reduce the risk of preterm birth or low birthweight infants.