Using a ligature-induced model in type-2 Zucker diabetic fatty (ZDF) rat and normoglycemic littermates, we investigated whether diabetes primarily affects periodontitis by enhancing bone loss or by limiting osseous repair. Diabetes increased the intensity and duration of the inflammatory infiltrate (P < 0.05). The formation of osteoclasts and percent eroded bone after 7 days of ligature placement was similar, while four days after removal of ligatures, the type 2 diabetic group had significantly higher osteoclast numbers and activity (P < 0.05). The amount of new bone formation following resorption was 2.4- to 2.9-fold higher in normoglycemic vs. diabetic rats (P < 0.05). Diabetes also increased apoptosis and decreased the number of bone-lining cells, osteoblasts, and periodontal ligament fibroblasts (P < 0.05). Thus, diabetes caused a more persistent inflammatory response, greater loss of attachment and more alveolar bone resorption, and impaired new bone formation. The latter may be affected by increased apoptosis of bone-lining and PDL cells.