Bone loss in the oral cavity may occur due to many causes, including infection, systemic or local alterations in the host response, or multifactorial causes. The purpose of this article is to review our present understanding of the major causes of oral bone loss in adults, with special emphasis on two major oral diseases: periodontitis and residual ridge resorption. Periodontitis is characterized by resorption of the alveolar bone as well as loss of the soft tissue attachment to the tooth. Progressive periodontitis will result in continued alveolar bone loss and may result in tooth mobility, abscesses, and ultimately tooth loss. Although the reported prevalence may vary according to the epidemiologic study design, the 1985 National Survey of Oral Health of United States Adults indicated that 94% of female senior citizens examined demonstrated at least one site with at least 2 mm loss of attachment. Resorption of alveolar bone that occurs following tooth extraction is termed residual ridge resorption. In many cases, the denture will loosen because of the inability of the resorbed ridge to stabilize the prosthesis. In the most severe cases, the denture may impinge on the exposed mandibular nerve, resulting in pain or total inability to tolerate the prostheses. Although clear statistics on the prevalence of residual ridge resorption are not available, this boss loss may result in the need for new dentures to replace ill-fitting prostheses.