Purpose Previous studies have found that Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with periodontitis, though some controversy remains. This meta-analysis aimed to clarify and update the relationship between EBV and periodontitis as well as clinical parameters. Methods A comprehensive search was conducted in the PubMed and Scopus databases in December 2020. Original data were extracted according to defined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Outcomes were analyzed, including overall odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). A random-effects model was used, and publication bias was assessed by Egger’s and Begg’s tests. Sensitivity analysis was used to evaluate the stability of the outcome. Results Twenty-six studies were included in the present meta-analysis, involving 1354 periodontitis patients and 819 healthy controls. The included studies mostly showed high quality. The overall quantitative synthesis for the association between EBV and periodontitis was an increased odds ratio when subgingival EBV was detected OR = 7.069, 95% CI = 4.197–11.905, P<0.001). The results of subgroup analysis suggested that the association of EBV with periodontitis was significant in Asian, European, and American populations (P<0.001; P = 0.04; P = 0.003, respectively) but not in African populations (P = 0.29). Subgroup analysis by sample type showed that subgingival plaque (SgP), tissue and gingival crevicular fluid GCF were useful for EBV detection (P<0.001). EBV detection amplification methods included nested PCR, multiplex PCR and PCR (P<0.001; P = 0.05, P<0.001, respectively), but EBV detection by real-time PCR and loop-mediated isothermal amplification presented no significant result (P = 0.06; P = 0.3, respectively). For the clinical parameters of periodontitis, pocket depth (PD) and bleeding of probing (BOP) percentages were higher in the EBV-positive sites than in the EBV-negative sites (MD 0.47 [0.08, 0.85], P = 0.02; MD 19.45 [4.47, 34.43], P = 0.01). Conclusions A high frequency of EBV detection is associated with an increased risk of periodontitis. The EBV association was particularly significant in all populations except in African populations. Subgigival plaque (SgP), tissue and GCF were not significantly different useful material for detecting EBV in periodontitis. Nested PCR and multiplex PCR are reliable methods for this purpose. In the presence of EBV, PD and BOP are reliable clinical parameters for gingival inflammation. However, some caution in such interpretation is justified due to heterogeneity among studies. A suggested extension could assess the parallel influence of other human herpesviruses.