Bond JC, Wise LA, Willis SK, Yland JJ, Hatch EE, Rothman KJ, Heaton B. Self-reported periodontitis and fecundability in a population of pregnancy planners. Hum Reprod. 2021 Jul 19;36(8):2298-308. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deab058

STUDY QUESTION: Is a history of periodontitis among women associated with reduced fecundability?

SUMMARY ANSWER: A history of periodontitis, as assessed by three different self-reported measures, may be associated with reduced fecundability.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the hard and soft tissues surrounding the teeth. Few studies have evaluated the association between periodontitis and time to pregnancy, and findings are mixed. It is hypothesized that periodontitis may adversely affect time to pregnancy.

STUDY, DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: We conducted a prospective cohort study of 2764 female pregnancy planners residing in North America (March 2015-June 2020).

PARTICIPANTS./MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Eligible participants had been attempting pregnancy for six or fewer menstrual cycles at enrollment and were not using fertility treatment. Women answered questions about their oral health. Pregnancy was ascertained via bi-monthly follow-up questionnaires. We used proportional probabilities regression models to estimate fecundability ratios (FRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for three different measures indicative of a history of periodontitis: ever diagnosed with periodontitis (N = 265), ever received treatment for periodontitis (N = 299), and ever had an adult tooth become loose on its own (N = 83). We adjusted for potential confounders and precision variables. Women at risk of misclassification of periodontitis diagnosis due to pregnancy-related gingivitis were reclassified in a sensitivity analysis.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE RISK OF CHANCE: All three indices of periodontitis may be associated with reduced fecundability. FRs were 0.89 (95% CI 0.75-1.06) comparing women with and without a previous periodontitis diagnosis, 0.79 (95% CI 0.67-0.94) comparing women with and without previous periodontitis treatment, and 0.71 (95% CI 0.44-1.16) comparing women with and without a tooth that became loose. After reclassification of pregnancy-related gingivitis in the sensitivity analysis, the FR for periodontitis diagnosis was 0.83 (95% CI 0.68-1.00). Weaker FRs were observed among parous women as compared with nulliparous women for periodontitis diagnosis and tooth becoming loose, but not for periodontitis treatment.

Though we used validated self-report measures of periodontitis, clinical confirmation is the gold standard. These questions may be functioning as markers of different levels of periodontitis severity, but we were unable to measure disease severity in this population. Finally, we cannot eliminate the possibility of unmeasured confounding.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This is the first preconception prospective cohort study to evaluate the association between self-reported periodontitis and fecundability. Our results indicate that periodontitis may be associated with lower fecundability.

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