the brazilian scientific literature on social and preventive dentistry from 1986 to 1993 was identified and analyzed to verify whether themes of papers referred to health policy and the national health system. published scientific articles were used as the unit of analysis for the study. an analytical survey was conducted considering the following variables, amongst others: author's institutional affiliation; author's title; author's areas of interest; type of research; type of article; and research funding sources. articles reviewed were published between the first and second national oral health conferences. there were 386 articles published in 19 journals, by at least 866 authors. more than 75% of the studies came from public universities. rgo was the largest publisher in this field, followed by revista da apcd. original articles accounted for 56.7% of the studies, while 30.3% were reviews and essays. the majority of the authors were from the state of s？o paulo. male writers predominated. a "quantitative deficiency" was identified, since scientific production remained below 50% of its potential. health policy was considered a specific issue in only 3 articles (0.8%) while 7 (1.8%) discussed the national health system.