Among putative periodontal pathogens, Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, Bacteroides forsythus, and Porphyromonas gingivalis are most convincingly implicated as etiological agents in periodontitis. Therefore, techniques for detection of those three species would be of value. We previously published a description of a multiplex PCR that detects A, actinomycetemcomitans and P. gingivalis. The present paper presents an improvement on that technique, which now allows more sensitive detection of all three periodontal pathogens. Sensitivity was determined by testing serial dilutions of A. actinomycetemcomitans, B. forsythus, and P. gingivalis cells. Primer specificity was tested against (i) all gene sequences from the GenBank-EMBL database, (ii) six A. actinomycetemcomitans, one B. forsythus, and four P. gingivalis strains, (iii) eight different species of oral bacteria, and (iv) supra- and subgingival plaque samples from 20 healthy subjects and subgingival plaque samples from 10 patients with periodontitis. The multiplex PCR had a detection limit of 10 A. actinomycetemcomitans, 10 P. gingivalis, and 100 B. forsythus cells. Specificity was confirmed by the fact that (i) none of our forward primers were homologous to the 16S rRNA genes of other oral species, (ii) amplicons of predicted size were detected for all A. actinomycetemcomitans, B. forsythus, and P. gingivalis strains tested, and (iii) no amplicons were detected for the eight other bacterial species. A. actinomycetemcomitans, B. forsythus, and P. gingivalis were detected in 6 of 20, 1 of 20, and 11 of 20 of supragingival plaque samples, respectively, and 4 of 20, 7 of 20, and 13 of 20 of subgingival plaque samples, respectively, from periodontally healthy subjects. Among patients with periodontitis, the organisms were detected in 7 of 10, 10 of 10, and 7 of 10 samples, respectively. The simultaneous detection of three periodontal pathogens is an advantage of this technique over conventional PCR assays.