Betel quid chewing is a popular oral habit in India, South Africa, and many Southeast Asian countries. The effects of areca nut (AN) extract on the growth, attachment, and protein synthesis of healthy human gingival fibroblasts (GF) were investigated to determine why betel quid (BQ) chewers have higher prevalence of periodontal disease than non-chewers. Twenty-four hour exposure of human GF to AN extract (> 200 μg/ml) in culture led to the formation of numerous intracellular vacuoles. As analyzed by modified MTT [3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide] assay, AN extract significantly suppressed the growth of GF over 5 days of incubation in a dose-dependent manner. At concentrations of 50 and 300 μg/ml, AN extract suppressed the growth of GF with 30% and 57% (P < 0.05), respectively. AN extract also significantly suppressed the synthesis of [3H]proline incorporation into trichloroacetic acid (TCA) precipitated proteins. At concentrations of 200, 400, and 600 μg/ml, AN extract suppressed the protein synthesis with 33%, 58%, and 63% of inhibition (P < 0.05), respectively. Preincubation of cells in a medium containing AN extract for 2 hours inhibits the subsequent attachment of cultured GF to type I collagen at the 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) which is about 720 to 798 μg/ml. Considering the frequent consumption of BQ throughout the day, impairment of sequential fibroblast functions by BQ ingredients is a potential mechanism through which BQ chewing exert a deleterious effect to the gingival tissues. J Periodontol 1998;69:1092-1097.