Aim.  To conduct a systematic review of literature in order to examine the evidence of an increased prevalence of dental caries in children with cleft lip and palate (CLP).

Methods.  A search of the PubMed database was conducted through May 2006. Sex- and age-matched case–control studies with noncavitated and manifest caries lesions as endpoint were targeted (n = 6). The studies were assessed independently by two reviewers and scored A–C according to predetermined criteria for methodology and performance.

Results.  Significantly more caries in CLP children were reported in two of the four studies in the permanent dentition and in three out of four publications dealing with primary teeth. None of the articles were, however, assessed with the highest grade ‘A’ and the level of evidence was therefore based on three papers graded ‘B’. There was a tendency towards higher caries scores in preschool children, but as conflicting results were revealed, the evidence that children with CLP exhibit more caries than noncleft controls was inconclusive.

Conclusion.  This systematic review of literature was unable to find firm evidence for the assumption that CLP children have an increased prevalence of dental caries.