The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association of periodontal health and human immunodeficiency virus infection among individuals in the early stages of disease who were participating in randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials of zidovudine. Previous reports have described a rapidly progressive periodontitis and atypical gigivitis associated with late stages of infection by the human immunodeficiency virus. A health history was completed by each subject. Baseline oral examinations were completed on 97 asymptomatic patients and nine with AIDS-related complex (ARC) during their regular clinic visit. Follow-up examinations were conducted at 3-month intervals throughout the 48 weeks of the oral study. Evaluations of plaque, calculus, gingival abnormalities, caries, and periodontal disease were conducted. Periodontal measurements included plaque index (PI), gingival index (GI), bleeding index (BI), probing depth (PD), and observation for cratering, necrosis, and tooth mobility on six teeth in each patient. More than half of the subjects had visited their dentist during the previous year and had had an oral prophylaxis; less than 25% of them had had either restorative work or extractions. The mean scores for periodontal indices averaged over the course of the study in asymptomatic and ARC respectively were: PI: 0.9 (SE 0.04) and 0.9 (SE 0.08), 0.818; GI: 1.0 (SE 0.04) and 0.9 (SE 0.07), P = 0.412; BI: 0.6 (SE 0.04) and 0.4 (SE 0.07), P = 0.278; PD: 2.9 (SE 0.05) and 2.6 (SE 0.10), P = 0.140. There was no evidence of cratering, necrosis, or tooth mobility in either group. Few had calculus or dental caries. There were no clinically significant differences detected between ARC versus asymptomatic patients. Dental histories and oral examinations showed that two groups of patients in early stages of HIV-disease were in good periodontal health.