Peridontal diseases are gram-negative anaerobic infections that can occur in women of childbearing age (18 to 34 years). In the present investigation we sought to determine whether the prevalence of maternal periodontal infection could be associated with preterm low birth weight (PLBW), controlling for known risk factors and potential covariates. A case-control study of 124 pregnant or postpartum mothers was performed. PLBW cases were defined as a mother with a birth of less than 2,500 g and one or more of the following: gestational age < 37 weeks, preterm labor (PTL), or premature rupture of membranes (PROM). Controls were normal birth weight infants (NBW). Assessments included a broad range of known obstetric risk factors, such as tobacco use, drug use, alcohol consumption, level of prenatal care, parity, genitourinary infections, and nutrition. Each subject received a periodontal examination to determine clinical attachment level. PLBW cases and primiparous PLBW cases (n = 93) had significantly worse periodontal disease than the respective NBW controls. Multivariate logistic regression models, controlling for other risk factors and covariates, demonstrated that periodontal disease is a statistically significant risk factor for PLBW with adjusted odds ratios of 7.9 and 7.5 for all PLBW cases and primiparous PLBW cases, respectively. These data indicate that periodontal diseases represent a previously unrecognized and clinically significant risk factor for preterm low birth weight as a consequence of either PTL or preterm PROM.