20 adult periodontitis (AP) subjects were examined every 2 to 4 months and microbiological samples were collected and cultured when 2 mm or more loss of attachment (active sites) was detected by 2 examiners. Similar sites in which no progressive destruction was observed (control sites) also were sampled in the same subjects. By lambda-analysis, there was no statistically significant difference in floras of active (42 sites from 12 subjects) and control (36 sites from 12 subjects) sites or between the floras of the active and control sites and of 63 samples from 22 AP subjects that were examined previously in a cross-sectional study. By paired t test, no microbial species had a significantly greater association with active than with control sites. The only species that were detected in one or more samples from all subjects with active sites were Wolinella recta, Fusobacterium nucleatum, and Peptostreptococcus micros. Porphyromonas gingivalis and 9 other taxa were isolated from one-half or more of the persons with active sites. The composition of microbiological floras of all periodontitis samples was statistically significantly different from that of subjects with healthy gingiva. The composition of microfloras of sites in subjects with naturally-occurring gingivitis was intermediate between that of subjects with healthy gingiva and that of active and control sites in AP subjects.