To determine if socio-economic status (SES) affects the stage at presentation of head and neck cancer (HNC) patients in Ottawa, Canada. To determine if the method of diagnosis affects the stage at presentation in these patients. We obtained data on SES, method of diagnosis, and stage at presentation for patients presenting to the head and neck cancer clinic at The Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre (TORCC). We performed a logistic regression analysis using stage at presentation as the dependent variable. We found no statistically significant association between average family income (by postal code) and stage at presentation. We found that oral cancers presented at a later stage compared with other HNCs but that who made the diagnosis was an important factor. Oral cancers diagnosed by a dentist had 3.44 times the odds of being at a later stage than other HNCs (CI 1.01-11.96), but oral cancers diagnosed by other means had 11.42 times the odds of being at a later stage than other HNCs. We found that male patients presented at a later stage than female patients (OR 2.62, CI 1.03-6.63). Finally, former smokers had about 1/3 the odds of presenting at a later stage than current smokers (OR 0.33, CI 0.13-0.84) although nonsmokers were not significantly less likely than current smokers to present later (OR 0.47, CI 0.17-1.32). We found no evidence that in Ottawa, Canada patients of a lower SES with HNC presented at an different stage than patients with higher SES. We found that patients presenting with oral cancers presented at an earlier stage if they were diagnosed by a dentist.