This study tested the hypothesis that persons with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) have greater risk of more severe alveolar bone loss progression over a 2-year period than those without NIDDM. Data from the longitudinal study of the oral health of residents of the Gila River Indian Community were analyzed for 362 subjects, aged 15 to 57, 338 of whom had less than 25% radiographic bone loss at baseline, and who did not develop NIDDM nor lose any teeth during the 2-year study period. The other 24 subjects had NIDDM at baseline, but met the other selection criteria. Bone scores (scale 0-4) from panoramic radiographs corresponded to bone loss of 0%, 1%-24%, 25%-49%, 50%-74%, or 75% and greater. Change in bone score category was computed as the change in worst bone score (WBS) reading after 2 years. Age, calculus, NIDDM status, time to follow-up examination, and baseline WBS were explanatory variables in regression models for ordinal categorical response variables. NIDDM was positively associated with the probability of a change in bone score when the covariates were controlled. The cumulative odds ratio for NIDDM at each threshold of the ordered response was 4.23 (95% C.I. = 1.80, 9.92). In addition to being associated with the incidence of alveolar bone loss (as demonstrated in previous studies), these results suggest an NIDDM-associated increased rate of alveolar bone loss progression.