OBJECTIVE Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) have been extensively studied for their antimicrobial properties, which provide an extensive applicability in dentistry. Because of this increasing interest in AgNPs, the objective of this paper was to review their use in nanocomposites; implant coatings; pre-formulation with antimicrobial activity against cariogenic pathogens, periodontal biofilm, fungal pathogens and endodontic bacteria; and other applications such as treatment of oral cancer and local anesthesia. Recent achievements in the study of the mechanism of action and the most important toxicological aspects are also presented. METHODS Systematic searches were carried out in Web of Science (ISI), Google, PubMed, SciFinder and EspaceNet databases with the keywords "silver nano* or AgNP*" and "dentist* or dental* or odontol*". RESULTS A total of 155 peer-reviewed articles were reviewed. Most of them were published in the period of 2012-2017, demonstrating that this topic currently represents an important trend in dentistry research. In vitro studies reveal the excellent antimicrobial activity of AgNPs when associated with dental materials such as nanocomposites, acrylic resins, resin co-monomers, adhesives, intracanal medication, and implant coatings. Moreover, AgNPs were demonstrated to be interesting tools in the treatment of oral cancers due to their antitumor properties. SIGNIFICANCE The literature indicates that AgNPs are a promising system with important features such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antitumor activity, and a potential carrier in sustained drug delivery. However, there are some aspects of the mechanisms of action of AgNPs, and some important toxicological aspects arising from the use of this system that must be completely elucidated.