Despite its relatively recent emergence over the past few decades, oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) has important implications for the clinical practice of dentistry and dental research. OHRQoL is a multidimensional construct that includes a subjective evaluation of the individual's oral health, functional well-being, emotional well-being, expectations and satisfaction with care, and sense of self. It has wide-reaching applications in survey and clinical research. OHRQoL is an integral part of general health and well-being. In fact, it is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an important segment of the Global Oral Health Program (2003). This paper identifies the what, why, and how of OHRQoL and presents an oral health theoretical model. The relevance of OHRQoL for dental practitioners and patients in community-based dental practices is presented. Implications for health policy and related oral health disparities are also discussed. A supplemental Appendix contains a Medline and ProQuest literature search regarding OHRQoL research from 1990-2010 by discipline and research design (e.g., descriptive, longitudinal, clinical trial, etc.). The search identified 300 articles with a notable surge in OHRQoL research in pediatrics and orthodontics in recent years.