Bacterial invasion of the periodontal tissues has been suggested as a relevant step in the etiopathogenesis of periodontal disease. However, its exact importance remains to be defined. The present systematic review assessed the scientific evidence concerning the relationship between the quality or quantity of periodontal microbiota in periodontal tissues and development of periodontal disease. The databases Medline-PubMed, Cochrane-CENTRAL, ISI Web of Knowledge and SCOPUS were searched, up to January 2014. Studies that reported evaluation of periodontal pathogens invasion on human tissues were selected. The screening of 440 title/abstracts elected 26 papers for full-text reading. Twenty three papers were subsequently excluded because of insufficient data or a study protocol not related to the objectives of this systematic review. All included studies were case-control studies that evaluated intracellular or adherent bacteria to epithelial cells from periodontal pockets versus healthy sulci. Study protocols presented heterogeneity regarding case and control definitions and methodological approaches for microbial identification. No consistent significant differences were found related to the presence/absence or proportion of specific periopathogens across the studies, as only one study found statistically significant differences regarding the presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans (p = 0.043), T. forsythia (P < 0.001), P. intermedia (P < 0.001), C. ochracea (P < 0.001) and C. rectus (P = 0.003) in epithelial cells from periodontal pockets vs. healthy sulci. All studies reported a larger unspecific bacterial load in or on the epithelial cells taken from a diseased site compared to a healthy sulcus. The current available data is of low to moderate quality and inconsistent mainly due to study design, poor reporting and methodological diversity. As so, there is insufficient evidence to support or exclude the invasion by periodontal pathogens as a key step in the etiopathogenesis of periodontal disease. Further research is needed.