Cleft lip and palate constitutes one of the most common congenital anomalies. This paper attempts a contemporary literature review concerning the etiology, classification and diagnosis of clefts of the lip, alveolus, soft and hard palate. Clefts of the lip, alveolus and palate are entities of varied etiology that may be genetically determined. However, their manifestation is also influenced by environmental factors during pregnancy. Today, clefting may be diagnosed at the beginning of the 2nd gestational trimester through advanced techniques of prenatal control. This paper also discusses aspects of normal facial development and cleft pathogenesis. Furthermore, the major parameters of cleft treatment recommended by the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association are presented comprehensively. In conclusion, long-term follow up of patients in specialized centers by experienced inter-disciplinary teams is of particularly importance for the best possible management of these patients.