OBJECTIVES The aim of this randomized, controlled trial was to evaluate the effects of 685-nm gallium aluminium arsenide (GaAlAs) diode laser therapy (1.6 J cm-2 ) as an adjunct to scaling and root planing in the treatment of chronic periodontitis. METHODS Thirty-two patients aged 35-60 years old who had chronic periodontitis met the eligibility criteria. They were randomly assigned to two equal groups: scaling and root planing were performed in the SRP group, while scaling, root planing and laser irradiation of periodontal pockets were performed in the SRP + DL group. Subgingival plaque samples were subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect P. gingivalis-colonized sites, and common clinical indices were evaluated before and 2 months after treatment. Clinical examination included gingival index (GI), plaque index (PI), probing depth (PD), clinical attachment level (CAL) and gingival bleeding index (GBI), all of which were recorded. RESULTS Data from 30 patients [19 women and 11 men; mean age, 48.4 (5.4) years old] were analysed. There were statistically significant improvements in GI, PD, CAL and GBI for the SRP + DL group compared to SRP group but no significant difference in PI between the groups. Additionally, the percentage of P. gingivalis-positive sites in the SRP + DL group decreased from 80% (12/15) to 20% (3/15) after laser irradiation (P < 0.05). No significant changes were noted in the SRP group. CONCLUSION GaAlAs diode laser irradiation of diseased periodontal pockets at 685 nm and 1.6 J cm-2 seemed to be an effective adjuvant to mechanical instrumentation to treat chronic periodontitis.