Craniofacial Birth Defects: Oral Clefts

Craniofacial defects, such as cleft lip and cleft palate, are one of the most common birth defects. Oral clefts are the second most common birth defects in children after Down syndrome.1 They may exist alone or as part of an inherited disease or syndrome. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to oral clefts. Although clefts can be repaired to varying degrees with surgery, researchers are working to understand the developmental processes that lead to clefting and how to prevent the condition or treat it more effectively.

Currently there are no national data for cleft lip or palate. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN) collects cleft lip and palate data annually from 13 states and one territory, which provides a means for estimating national data.


  1. Parker SE, Mai CT, Canfield MA, et al. Updated national birth prevalence estimates for selected birth defects in the United States, 2004–2006. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology. 2010;88(12):1008–16.
Last Reviewed
August 2022