Current knowledge of the microbial composition of dental plaque in early gingivitis is based largely on microscopy and cultural methods, which do not provide a comprehensive description of oral microbial communities. This study used 454-pyrosequencing of the V1-V3 region of 16S rRNA genes (approximately 500 bp), and bacterial culture, to characterize the composition of plaque during the transition from periodontal health to gingivitis. A total of 20 healthy volunteers abstained from oral hygiene for two weeks, allowing plaque to accumulate and gingivitis to develop. Plaque samples were analyzed at baseline, and after one and two weeks. In addition, plaque samples from 20 chronic periodontitis patients were analyzed for cross-sectional comparison to the experimental gingivitis cohort. All of the healthy volunteers developed gingivitis after two weeks. Pyrosequencing yielded a final total of 344,267 sequences after filtering, with a mean length of 354 bases, that were clustered into an average of 299 species-level Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) per sample. Principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) plots revealed significant shifts in the bacterial community structure of plaque as gingivitis was induced, and community diversity increased significantly after two weeks. Changes in the relative abundance of OTUs during the transition from health to gingivitis were correlated to bleeding on probing (BoP) scores and resulted in the identification of new health- and gingivitis-associated taxa. Comparison of the healthy volunteers to the periodontitis patients also confirmed the association of a number of putative periodontal pathogens with chronic periodontitis. Taxa associated with gingivitis included Fusobacterium nucleatum subsp. polymorphum, Lachnospiraceae [G-2] sp. HOT100, Lautropia sp. HOTA94, and Prevotella oulorum, whilst Rothia dentocariosa was associated with periodontal health. Further study of these taxa is warranted and may lead to new therapeutic approaches to prevent periodontal disease.