Serial histological sections of gingiva obtained from each of six advanced adult periodontitis, two localized juvenile periodontitis and two periodontally healthy patients were used for specific identification of bacteria within the oral epithelium and adjacent connective tissue. Healthy gingival biopsies served as controls. Sections from patients and control biopsies were Gram-stained and also screened with antibacterial sera associated with the peroxidase immunocytochemical technique for specific bacterial identification. The "Pop-off" electron microscopic technique was also used to further demonstrate the bacterial nature of peroxidase-stained material. In addition, the possible correlation between bacteria and areas of possible reduced keratinization was investigated. The results showed that sections of orthokeratinized healthy gingiva did not contain bacteria. Gram-stained sections from diseased sites contained large numbers of bacteria in the oral epithelium and adjacent connective tissue. Bacteroides gingivalis and to a lesser extent Capnocytophaga gingivalis were found in periodontitis, and Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans was found in juvenile periodontitis when the immunoperoxidase technique was used. The bacterial nature of peroxidase-stained material was confirmed by the "pop-off" technique. In the disease biopsies, bacterial presence was correlated with areas of reduced amounts of keratin suggesting that the oral epithelium may be a portal of entry for bacteria into gingival tissues.