Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a major global health problem with a relatively low‐moderate 5‐year survival rate. OSCC is often preceded by lesions and conditions known as oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD) that have an increased risk of malignant transformation. Despite advances in diagnostic technology and cancer research, the prognosis of OSCC remains poor as it is frequently detected a late stage. Understanding the molecular pathways involved in oral carcinogenesis provides a platform to identify biomarkers that may allow the early detection of OSCC and accurate prediction of the malignant potential of OPMDs. In addition, specific molecular inhibitors can be developed to target these important pathways and allow advanced therapeutic management to improve the prognosis of this malignancy. A common feature across a number of different cancers is the dysfunction of cell cycle moderator proteins known as cyclin‐dependent kinases. This review summarises the current literature regarding the role of cyclin‐dependent kinases in oral carcinogenesis with a particular focus on cyclin‐dependent kinases 4 (CDK4) and 6 (CDK6). This is of particular relevance as CDK4 and CDK6 inhibitors have shown some promising results in other cancer types, and are interesting potential treatments for OSCC.