During the last decade it has become clear that periodontal ligament fibroblasts may contribute to the in vitro differentiation of osteoclasts. We surveyed the current findings regarding their osteoclastogenesis potential. Periodontal ligament fibroblasts have the capacity to select and attract osteoclast precursors and subsequently to retract and enable migration of osteoclast precursors to the bone surface. There, fusion of precursors takes place, giving rise to osteoclasts. The RANKL–RANK–osteoprotegerin (OPG) axis is considered crucial in this process. Periodontal ligament fibroblasts produce primarily OPG, an osteoclastogenesis-inhibitory molecule. However, they may be influenced in vivo by direct or indirect interactions with bacteria or by mechanical loading. Incubation of periodontal ligament fibroblasts with bacteria or bacterial components causes an increased expression of RANKL and other osteoclastogenesis-stimulating molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor-α and macrophage-colony stimulating factor. Similar results are observed after the application of mechanical loading to these fibroblasts. Periodontal ligament fibroblasts may be considered to play an important role in the remodelling of alveolar bone. In vitro experiments have demonstrated that periodontal ligament fibroblasts adapt to bacterial and mechanical stimuli by synthesizing higher levels of osteoclastogenesis-stimulating molecules. Therefore, they probably contribute to the enhanced osteoclast formation observed during periodontitis and to orthodontic tooth movement.