Oral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus represents one of the more common conditions the dental practitioner will be called upon to manage. Unique in its ability to establish latency and undergo subsequent recurrence, it is an ubiquitous infectious agent for which a cure does not exist. For the immunocompetent patient, herpes virus simplex infection typically represents nothing more than a nuisance. However, for the immunocompromised patient, this infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Recently introduced antiviral drug regimens may reduce the morbidity and potential mortality of the herpes simplex virus, especially in immunocompromised patients. The value of antiviral therapy in the management of recurrent herpes simplex virus infection in the immunocompetent patient remains an area of contentious debate.