Background Oral squamous cell carcinomas and potentially malignant oral disorders can be detected early by visually inspecting the oral soft tissues. This study aimed to determine Australian dentists' opinions and practices regarding oral mucosal screening, referral and oral cancer prevention. Methods Nine hundred and ninety-nine randomly selected general dentists were mailed a questionnaire. The questionnaire queried practitioners' opinions and perceptions of oral mucosal screening, their referral practices and their beliefs regarding detection and prevention of oral cancer. Results A total of n = 640 individuals responded, yielding a response rate of 70.2%. Most Australian dentists reported to routinely perform oral mucosal screening. Lack of training, confidence, time and financial incentives were seen as barriers to performing mucosal screening to at least some degree by participants in this study. Most dentists manage referrals for oral mucosal pathology appropriately; however, only about half believe in following up with referred patients. Only half of dentists surveyed believed that they could influence a patient to quit smoking. Conclusions Australian dentists place importance on oral mucosal screening. Some changes to dental education and training could be made to further improve confidence and ability of dentists in detecting and referring oral mucosal pathology.