Objective To assess general medical practitioners' (GMPs') and general dental practitioners' (GDPs') awareness of prevention and early detection of oral cancer. Design Cross-sectional questionnaire-based study. Setting Primary care Method Questionnaires were delivered to all GMPs and GDPs in Tayside, assessing oral examination habits, delivery of advice on oral cancer risk factors, knowledge of oral cancer risk factors and clinical appearance, preferred point of referral and requests for further information. Results Response rates of 71% and 84% were obtained from GMPs and GDPs respectively. GMPs were less likely to examine patients' oral mucosa routinely, less likely to advise patients about risk factors for oral cancer, identified fewer risk factors for, and felt less confident about diagnosing oral cancer from clinical appearance than their dental counterparts. Seventy-one percent and 80% of GMPs and GDPs respectively requested further information about oral cancer. Conclusion Patients with oral lesions often present to their general medical practitioner. The incidence of oral cancer is rising in the United Kingdom, therefore the role of general medical practitioners in prevention and detection of oral cancer is becoming ever more important. This study highlights the need for improved education of general medical practitioners on oral cancer.