Accounts of self-perceptions of oral health have hitherto been rare, although they are of great interest for strategies in health promotion. The objective of this study was to increase our knowledge of adolescents' perceptions of oral health and influencing factors. Semi-structured interviews of 17 Swedish adolescents were performed. Criteria for strategic sampling were age (15, 18 years), gender (male, female), and dental health (healthy, unhealthy). Data were analyzed according to the constant comparative method. Areas of focus were general oral health, personal oral health, dental care, and life-style issues. Oral health awareness was generally low among the informants. Two categories of oral health were identified: action (the physical things we do to effect the condition of our mouths) and condition (the physical status of the mouth). Conditional aspects were most frequent in evaluations of personal oral health. The informants considered their possibilities to influence oral health limited. Perceptions of influences on oral health were related to personal and professional care, social support and impact, and external factors. 'Concern for oral health' was derived as the core category in perceived influence on oral health. The study indicates that it is important to find factors that enhance adolescents' awareness of their own resources and to seek mechanisms that govern internalization. There is a need to find strategies to convey such knowledge to the intermediaries: dental personnel and parents.