The purpose of the paper is to highlight the interrelationship between social and health policy, and health services research. The principles and concepts in social and health policy in the Scandinavian welfare states are described with reference to oral health care. The concept of policy analysis is defined and distinctions are made between "analysis of policy", and "analysis for policy". The policy perspective is discussed with the focus on the planning--budgeting--implementation--evaluation cycle and related to the WHO Strategy for Health for All. Finally, the implications for oral health services research in Scandinavia are emphasized.