Multiple dental diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation, due to the production of cytokines, chemokines, and prostanoids by immune and non-immune cells. Membrane-bound receptors provide a link between the extracellular environment and the initiation of intracellular signaling events that activate common signaling components, including p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), and nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB. Although ERK pathways regulate cell survival and are responsive to extracellular mitogens, p38 MAPK, JNK, and NF-kappaB are involved in environmental stress responses, including inflammatory stimuli. Over the past decade, significant advances have been made relative to our understanding of the fundamental intracellular signaling mechanisms that govern inflammatory cytokine expression. The p38 MAPK pathway has been shown to play a pivotal role in inflammatory cytokine and chemokine gene regulation at both the transcriptional and the post-transcriptional levels. In this review, we present evidence for the significance of p38 MAPK signaling in diverse dental diseases, including chronic pain, desquamative disorders, and periodontal diseases. Additional information is presented on the molecular mechanisms whereby p38 signaling controls post-transcriptional gene expression in inflammatory states.