At the present time, the diagnosis and classification of periodontal diseases are almost entirely based on traditional clinical assessments. Supplemental quantitative and qualitative assessments of the gingival crevicular fluid and subgingival microflora can potentially provide useful information about the patient's periodontal disease. In certain situations, these supplemental risk-assessment tests may be particularly valuable in establishing the endpoint of therapy prior to placing patients on a periodontal maintenance program. Although the clinical utility of none of these tests has been validated, their further development is warranted. A genetic test for susceptibility to periodontitis has become commercially available. How best to use this and future host-based tests in clinical practice remains to be determined. Probing depth and clinical attachment loss measurements obtained with periodontal probes are practical and valid methods for assessing periodontal status. Computer-linked, controlled-force electronic periodontal probes are commercially available and are currently in use by some practitioners. Many of the logistical problems associated with subtraction radiography are being overcome and this powerful diagnostic tool may soon come into widespread use. Future developments in this and other imaging techniques are likely to have a profound effect on our approach to the diagnosis of periodontal diseases.