Obtaining dental clearance prior to elective total joint arthroplasty is a common practice; however, little published data exist to justify this requirement. Dental clearance data for 365 elective total knee and total hip arthroplasty patients were gathered prospectively. Of these patients, 358 (average age of 62.4 years; 157 men and 201 women; 152 primary total knee arthroplasties (TKAs), 16 revision TKA arthroplasties, one conversion TKA, 168 primary total hip (THAs) arthroplasties and 21 revision THA arthroplasties) proceeded to surgery and follow-up data were available for 355. A comparison group of 218 hip fracture patients (average age of 78.7 years; 52 men and 109 women; 137 THA and 81 hemiarthroplasties) with no preoperative dental clearance who were treated with hip arthroplasty was extracted retrospectively from an institutional database. Follow-up data were available for 161 of these patients. The incidence of dental pathology in the elective arthroplasty group was 8.8%. Early postoperative infection requiring surgical treatment occurred in six patients (1.7%) in the dental clearance elective arthroplasty group and in four patients (2.5%) in the hip fracture arthroplasty group. No statistical difference was found between the two groups. This suggests that the perceived need for routine preoperative dental screening for all hip and knee arthroplasty patients should be reassessed.