Placental colonization with periodontal pathogens: the potential missing link

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Observational studies demonstrate that women with severe periodontitis have a higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes like preterm birth and low birthweight. Standard treatment for periodontitis in the form of scaling and root planing during the second trimester failed to reduce the risk of preterm or low birthweight. It is premature to dismiss the association between periodontitis and adverse pregnancy outcomes because one explanation for the failure of scaling and root planing to reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes is that periodontal pathogens spread to the placental tissue prior to periodontal treatment. In the placenta, orally derived organisms could cause direct tissue damage or mediate a maternal immune response that impairs the growth of the developing fetus. Sequencing studies demonstrate the presence of organisms derived from the oral microbiome in the placenta, but DNA-based sequencing studies should not be the only technique to evaluate the placental microbiome because they may not detect important shifts in the metabolic capability of the microbiome. In humans, polymerase chain reaction and histology have detected periodontal pathogens in placental tissue in association with multiple adverse pregnancy outcomes. We conclude that both placental and oral microbiomes may play a role in periodontitis-associated adverse pregnancy outcomes. However, the measure to determine the association between periodontal pathogens in the placenta and adverse pregnancy outcomes should be the amount and prevalence, not the mere presence of such microorganisms. Placental colonization with periodontal pathogens thus potentially represents the missing link between periodontitis and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-392.e3
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2019



  • adverse pregnancy outcomes
  • low birthweight
  • periodontitis
  • preterm birth

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