An individual variation in the gingival inflammatory response to the dental biofilm has been demonstrated. This variability can be observed between individuals with neither quantitative nor qualitative differences in plaque accumulation. The reported significant differences in gingival inflammatory response under quantitatively and/or qualitatively almost identical bacterial challenge suggest that the gingival response to plaque accumulation may be an individual trait, possibly genetic in origin. The most recent classification of periodontal diseases acknowledges that the clinical expression of plaque-induced gingival inflammation can be substantially modified by systemic factors, either inherent to the host or related to environmental influences. The aim of the present literature review is to describe (i) the factors influencing the development of plaque-induced gingivitis as well as (ii) those metabolic, environmental and systemic factors which have a direct impact on the etiopathogenetic pathway of plaque-induced gingivitis, thus altering the nature or course of the gingival inflammatory response to dental biofilm.