Traditional methods of screening for oral potentially malignant disorders and oral malignancies involve a conventional oral examination with digital palpation. Evidence indicates that conventional examination is a poor discriminator of oral mucosal lesions. A number of optical aids have been developed to assist the clinician to detect oral mucosal abnormalities and to differentiate benign lesions from sinister pathology. This paper discusses advances in optical technologies designed for the detection of oral mucosal abnormalities. The literature regarding such devices, VELscope and Identafi, is critically analysed, and the novel use of Narrow Band Imaging within the oral cavity is also discussed. Optical aids are effective in assisting with the detection of oral mucosal abnormalities; however, further research is required to evaluate the usefulness of these devices in differentiating benign lesions from potentially malignant and malignant lesions.