Oral squamous cell carcinomas comprise 2-3% of all new malignancies diagnosed in the United States, making it the 10th most common malignancy. However, for the last few decades, the average five-year survival rate of 50% has not changed significantly. This article reviews the risk factors associated with the development of oral cancer and how premalignant (leukoplakia and erythroplakia) and actual cancerous lesions may appear. Diagnostic tools and aids to diagnosis are discussed, as are treatment modalities. It is imperative that all dental professionals perform a simple head and neck examination in addition to an oral examination during each new patient visit and each six-month recall appointment. Early detection saves lives.