A total of 98 adults previously treated for moderate to advanced periodontitis and on a trimonthly recall schedule were screened for the presence of critical levels of Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Prevotella (Bacteroides) intermedia, and Porphyromonas (Bacteroides) gingivalis. Patients with at least 2 positive sites were placed in a positive group and patients without or with low levels of these bacteria in a negative group. During the 30-month study the incidence of disease recurrence was greater in the positive group, but did not reach statistical significance. Positive patients with deeper pockets tended to be at greater risk of developing recurrent disease than those with shallower pockets. In the positive group only, both A. actinomycetemcomitans recovery and antibody levels to A. actinomycetemcomitans strain NCTC 9710 (serotype c) were inversely correlated with disease recurrence. The presence of A. actinomycetemcomitans and P. intermedia above critical levels did not reliably predict future episodes of disease recurrence in this population. The sparse recovery of P. gingivalis did not permit us to assess its diagnostic value. With the exception of P. gingivalis, for which insufficient data were available, the results indicate that the presence or absence of the above bacterial species cannot of itself serve as a reliable predictor of future episodes of recurrent disease in a population of treated patients on a regular trimonthly recall schedule.