Dendritic cells (DCs) are specialized sentinels responsible for coordinating adaptive immunity. This function is dependent upon coupled sensitivity to environmental signs of inflammation and infection to cellular maturation-the programmed alteration of DC phenotype and function to enhance immune cell activation. Although DCs are thus well equipped to respond to pathogens, maturation triggers are not unique to infection. Given that immune cells are exquisitely sensitive to the biological functions of DCs, we now appreciate that multiple layers of suppression are required to restrict the environmental sensitivity, cellular maturation, and even life span of DCs to prevent aberrant immune activation during the steady state. At the same time, steady-state DCs are not quiescent but rather perform key functions that support homeostasis of numerous cell types. Here we review these functions and molecular mechanisms of suppression that control steady-state DC maturation. Corruption of these steady-state operatives has diverse immunological consequences and pinpoints DCs as potent drivers of autoimmune and inflammatory disease.