This study is a review of practice for patients with T1 or T2 squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the anterior tongue and floor of the mouth who presented to the regional maxillofacial unit in Liverpool between 1992 and 2007. We examined trends in management and analysed their effects on resection margins, recurrence, and survival. The Liverpool head and neck oncology database was used to identify patients, and to retrieve their clinical, surgical, and pathological data. When data were missing the case notes and pathology records were reviewed. Follow up was taken to January 2011. A total of 382 patients were included. Despite more conservative treatment with closer resection margins (27% in 1992-1995 and 60% in 2004-2007), fewer free flaps (79% in 1992-1995 and 38% in 2004-2007), and less adjuvant radiotherapy (37% in 1992-1995 and 22% in 2004-2007), there has been no significant increase in local recurrence (14% in 1992-1996 and 8% in 2004-2007), and overall survival has not been adversely affected. This is most striking when T1 tumours are considered in isolation with a consistent trend towards fewer clear margins (95% in 1992-1995 and 28% in 2004-2007) and fewer free flaps (53% in 1992-1995 and 11% in 2004-2007). The case mix was similar over the study period. These data support a more conservative approach to the management of early oral cancer.