The internal surfaces of the human body are covered by distinct types of epithelial cells and mucus-secreting cells. The mucosal surfaces serve many vital functions, such as respiration (nasal passage and lung), absorption (gastrointestinal tract), excretion (lung, urinary tract, large intestine), and reproduction (reproductive tract). In performing these functions, the host is inevitably exposed to environmental antigens, food particles, commensal flora, and pathogens. Mucosal surfaces contain specialized dendritic cells (DCs) capable of sensing these external stimuli and mounting appropriate local responses depending on the nature of the elements they encounter. In the absence of pathogens, mucosal DCs either ignore the antigen or induce regulatory responses. Upon recognition of microorganisms that invade the mucosal barrier, mucosal DCs mount robust protective immunity. This review highlights progress in our understanding of how mucosal DCs process external information and direct appropriate responses by mobilizing various cells of the innate and adaptive immune systems to achieve homeostasis and protection.