Cleft Lip, Palate Among Most Common Birth Defects

Cleft lip and cleft palate, the most common of 18 major birth defects tracked in the United States, affects an estimated 6,800 infants annually, according to updated data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported on revised estimates of birth defect rates in the Jan. 6 edition of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The information used to update the national estimates was culled from 1999-2001 data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Network for 11 states that send staff to hospitals to identify infants with any of 18 major birth defects.

A cleft lip is a condition that creates an opening in the upper lip between the mouth and nose, giving the appearance of a split in the lip. A cleft palate occurs when the roof of the mouth has not joined completely and can range from an opening at the back of the soft palate to a nearly complete separation of the roof of the mouth.

After these types of clefts, Down syndrome had the second highest prevalence according the data, affecting about 5,500 infants each year. Among the 18 major birth defects tracked, each of ten different types of defects affected more than 1,000 infants each year, the CDC said.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, which highlights steps women can take to help achieve a healthy birth. For more information, log on to

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur because a baby’s lip or mouth does not form properly during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an upper lip that is split. It is caused by the failure of the tissue of the lip to join. A cleft palate occurs when the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not come together.