The detection of oral cancer at an early stage is the most effective means to improve survival and reduce morbidity, disfigurement, duration of treatment, and hospital costs associated with this disease. However, approximately 30% of patients delay seeking help for more than 3 months following the self-discovery of symptoms of oral cancer. This study aimed to increase our understanding of patient delay for potentially malignant oral symptoms in order to inform the development of interventions to encourage early presentation of oral cancer. Newly referred patients (n = 80) with potentially malignant oral symptoms completed a questionnaire to determine influences on the timing of their decision to seek help. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine factors associated with patient delay. The analysis indicated that the gravity of patients' initial symptom interpretation, the level of deprivation, knowledge of oral cancer, severity of life events in the patient delay period, and perceived ability to seek help for oral symptoms were significantly related to the duration of patient delay, with the latter three variables being independent predictors. The results are discussed with reference to their implications for interventions aimed at reducing patient delay for symptoms of oral cancer.