Porphyromonas gingivalis is a Gram-negative oral anaerobe that is involved in the pathogenesis of periodontitis, an inflammatory disease that destroys the tissues supporting the tooth, eventually leading to tooth loss. Porphyromonas gingivalis has can locally invade periodontal tissues and evade the host defence mechanisms. In doing so, it utilizes a panel of virulence factors that cause deregulation of the innate immune and inflammatory responses. The present review discusses the invasive and evasive strategies of P. gingivalis and the role of its major virulence factors in these, namely lipopolysaccharide, capsule, gingipains and fimbriae. Moreover, the role of P. gingivalis as a 'keystone' biofilm species in orchestrating a host response, is highlighted.