Preterm birth is a major cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality in both developed and developing countries. Preterm birth is a highly complex syndrome that includes distinct clinical subtypes in which many different causes may be involved. The results of epidemiological, molecular, microbiological and animal-model studies support a positive association between maternal periodontal disease and preterm birth. However, the results of intervention studies carried out to determine the effect of periodontal treatment on reducing the risk of preterm birth are controversial. This systematic review critically analyzes the methodological issues of meta-analyses of the studies to determine the effect of periodontal treatment to reduce preterm birth. The quality of the individual randomized clinical trials selected is of highest relevance for a systematic review. This article describes the methodological features that should be identified a priori and assessed individually to determine the quality of a randomized controlled trial performed to evaluate the effect of periodontal treatment on pregnancy outcomes. The AMSTAR and the PRISMA checklist tools were used to assess the quality of the six meta-analyses selected, and the bias domain of the Cochrane Collaboration's Tool was applied to evaluate each of the trials included in the meta-analyses. In addition, the methodological characteristics of each clinical trial were assessed. The majority of the trials included in the meta-analyses have significant methodological flaws that threaten their internal validity. The lack of effect of periodontal treatment on preterm birth rate concluded by four meta-analyses, and the positive effect of treatment for reducing preterm birth risk concluded by the remaining two meta-analyses are not based on consistent scientific evidence. Well-conducted randomized controlled trials using rigorous methodology, including appropriate definition of the exposure, adequate control of confounders for preterm birth and application of effective periodontal interventions to eliminate periodontal infection, are needed to confirm the positive association between periodontal disease and preterm birth.
Field of Science
- 3.2 Clinical medicine
- 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database