Early identification of high-risk disease could greatly reduce both mortality and morbidity due to oral cancer. We describe a simple handheld device that facilitates the direct visualization of oral-cavity fluorescence for the detection of high-risk precancerous and early cancerous lesions. Blue excitation light is employed to excite green-red fluorescence from fluorophores in the oral tissues. Tissue fluorescence is viewed directly along an optical axis collinear with the axis of excitation to reduce inter- and intraoperator variability. This robust, field-of-view device enables the direct visualization of fluorescence in the context of surrounding normal tissue. Results from a pilot study of 44 patients are presented. Using histology as the gold standard, the device achieves a sensitivity of 98% and specificity of 100% when discriminating normal mucosa from severe dysplasia/carcinoma in situ (CIS) or invasive carcinoma. We envisage this device as a suitable adjunct for oral cancer screening, biopsy guidance, and margin delineation.