Perceptions of dental schools held by high-level administrators of their parent institutions and officials in the local community have great potential to influence the future of dental education. The intent of this investigation was to gain a preliminary knowledge of such perceptions at seven institutions in the United States and to use this information to formulate hypotheses that can provide the basis for further targeted investigations that provide evidence useful in decision making and planning processes within dental schools. Interviews with university administrators, executive directors of state dental associations, and state government officials in seven areas of the United States were conducted. The hypotheses drawn from these interviews are: 1) dental schools are generally too insular and need to interact more with their parent institutions and external community; 2) dental schools need to systematically and continually get the message of the value of their services out to the public and political constituencies; and 3) multidisciplinarity and integration with other units are important to university administrators but largely outside the concerns of those external to the university. We suggest that these hypotheses form the basis of subsequent, more targeted, follow-up investigations with the intent of formulating specific recommendations for action.