Little information is available on the immunological basis for side-effects of dental materials. The objective of this study is to evaluate effects of pure metals, dental alloys and ceramic on cell viability and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) release in three-dimensional human gingival fibroblast cultures as an indicator of their biological performance in gingival tissues. The gingival fibroblast cultures were exposed to test specimens fabricated from nickel, iron, molybdenum, copper, indium, gold, Ni-Cr-Mo alloy (Remanium CS), Au-Pt-In alloy (Pontostar) and a dental ceramic (In-ceram). Cell viability was determined by the MTT method 24 and 48 h after exposure. Assays for IL-1 beta were carried out by ELISA. Statistical analysis was performed applying the non-parametric Mann-Whitney pairwise test. Dental ceramic and gold did not influence cell viability after 24 and 48 h. Cell viability was determined after 24 and 48 h to nickel (79-77%), iron (92-90%), molybdenum (86-83%), copper (48-36%), indium (90-90%), Remanium CS (83-80%), Pontostar (94-91%) compared with control cultures. Dental ceramic, Pontostar and gold had no significant influence on IL-1 beta secretion. The highest amounts of IL-1 beta (10-fold) levels were determined in cell cultures exposed to copper. Indium, molybdenum and iron induced twofold IL-1 beta levels compared with untreated control cultures. These results support that some metals may alter immune responses and thereby contribute to a variety of dental pathological conditions and three-dimensional cell culture models for gingival fibroblasts appear to be suitable for in vitro studies.