The endocrine system plays a major role in human survival. Endocrine glands secrete chemical messengers or hormones that affect every tissue of the body, including the periodontium, during the life of the individual. As the endocrine system influences a broad assortment of biological activities necessary for life, a general understanding of the principal components and functions of this system is essential. A fundamental assessment of hormone structure, mechanism of action and hormone transport, as well as influence on homeostasis is reviewed. A concise evaluation of the functions of the central endocrine glands, the functions of the major peripheral endocrine glands (other than gonadal tissues) and the known relationships of these hormones to the periodontium is examined.