A small number of bacterial pathogens in the human oral cavity cause the different forms of periodontal disease. Of the approximately two hundred different oral bacterial species, about a dozen have been associated with these diseases including localized juvenile periodontitis, rapidly progressing periodontitis, and adult periodontitis. These species include Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Bacteroides forsythus, Campylobacter rectus, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and Prevotella intermedia. Several rapid methods have been developed to detect these species in clinical samples. These include immunologic methods such as immunofluorescence, nucleic acid assays such as DNA-DNA hybridization in dot blots and enzyme assays. Immunofluorescence microscopy has been used to determine the prevalence and relative proportions of these pathogens in dental plaque samples from 194 subjects including HIV-infected and uninfected male homosexuals and intravenous drug users.