Bone remodeling that occurs during orthodontic tooth movement is a biologic process involving an acute inflammatory response in periodontal tissues. A sequence characterized by periods of activation, resorption, reversal, and formation has been recently described as occurring in both tension and compression tooth sites during orthodontic tooth movement. We used a longitudinal design to investigate alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity in gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) to assess whether it can serve as a diagnostic aid in orthodontics. Sixteen patients (mean age, 15.5 years) participated in the study. The maxillary first molars under treatment served as the test teeth (TT) in each patient; in particular, 1 first molar was to be retracted and hence was considered the distalized molar (DM), whereas the contralateral molar (CM) was included in the fixed orthodontic appliance but was not subjected to the distal forces. The DM antagonist first molar (AM), free from any orthodontic appliance, was used as the baseline control. The GCF around the experimental teeth was harvested from mesial and distal tooth sites immediately before appliance activation, 1 hour after, and weekly over the following 4 weeks. The clinical gingival condition was evaluated at the baseline and at the end of the experimental term. ALP activity was determined spectrophotometrically at 30 degrees C, and the results were expressed as total ALP activity (mUnits/sample). GCF ALP activity was significantly elevated in the DMs and the CMs as compared with the AMs at 1, 2, 3, and 4 weeks; conversely, in the AMs, GCF ALP activity remained at baseline levels throughout the experiment. Moreover, the enzyme activity in the DMs was significantly greater than in the CMs. In the DMs, a significantly greater ALP activity was observed in sites of tension compared with sites of compression. This difference was not seen with the CMs, in which the enzyme activity increased to the same extent in tension and compression sites. These results suggest that ALP activity in GCF reflects the biologic activity in the periodontium during orthodontic movement and therefore should be further investigated as a diagnostic tool for monitoring orthodontic tooth movement in clinical practice.