Cancer can be defined, in a simplistic way, as the uncontrolled and disordered growth of cells that invade the adjacent tissues causing its involvement. Worldwide, oral cancer ranks sixth among the types of cancer diagnosed. Literature characterizes some conditions as main risk factors for the genesis of potentially malignant oral lesions, such as smoked or chewed tobacco and its association with alcohol abuse. Another relevant condition cited by some authors is the use of cocaine in the form of crack, due to its contaminants which are corrosive / irritating substances. Other probable triggers are still being studied, such as the human papilloma virus and certain bacteria. Among a considerably amount of main clinical conditions with potential malignancy recognized by WHO there are oral leukoplakia, erythroplasia and erythroleukoplakia. Visual detailed inspection of the oral cavity is a fundamental step during the patient physical examination. In addition, palpation of the intraoral region as well as extraoral areas such as the neck should be continued, which, together with a thorough anamnesis, are able to provide sufficient elements to elaborate a possible diagnostic hypothesis. Thus, the dentist must perform a good physical examination in his usual practice, associated with a well-structured anamnesis, in order to favor the earliest possible diagnosis and correct management of these injuries.
Key words: Neoplasm, Oral cancer, Malignant lesions, Potentially malignant lesions, Oral diagnosis.