Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity has long been seen as an attractive candidate for chemoprevention strategies. Because of the poor out-comes associated with the disease, the presence of identifiable premalignant lesions, and the failure of local preventive therapies, such as surgery, many investigators have hoped to find an effective chemopreventive compound. Initial enthusiasm surrounding high-dose retinoids gave way to concerns regarding toxicity and short duration of response. Although many of the other agents discussed above have shown promise, as yet none have been proven safe and effective in large-scale randomized trials. Much has been learned,however, about the molecular process of oral carcinogenesis from studies of these agents. Ongoing and future studies of chemopreventive agents in oral cancer hopefully will be able to exploit our expanding knowledge of these molecular pathways.