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Your Medical Team

A Cleft Team is made up of specialists who treat different conditions caused by the cleft. One specialist may deal with several of the conditions. Treatment for one feature of the cleft may affect another feature so it is important that the different specialists work together as a team.

In New Zealand there are 4 main Cleft Units. They are tertiary providers of specialised cleft care. You will be assigned to the cleft team closest to where you live.

Your child will be seen at a combined clinic. The integrated Cleft Team will work with you and your child to provide a coordinated treatment plan spanning 15-20 years. Timing of visits and some protocols vary slightly between the centres and specific care plans are individualised to your child’s needs.

The specific aims of treatment are consistent across the Cleft Teams in New Zealand and include:

  • Normal speech development.
  • Normal general appearance of the face, lips, and nose.
  • Normal development of the jaws and teeth.
  • Progress at home and school.


You will see a  core Cleft Team at most combined clinics which may include:

Speech Language Therapist

Works with you to advise on appropriate feeding methods and oversee normal speech and language development. You may meet both a hospital based speech language therapist and also a speech therapist through Education Services locally as your child grows.


Repairs clefts and later does the bone graft operation. Some teams utilise different types of surgeons for each task. ie; Plastic, ENT, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and/or an Oral Surgeon. Most commonly, the Paediatric Plastic Surgeon will be the lead surgeon.


Specialises in the treatment and correction of teeth positioning and occlusion (bite). Your child may require a plate for their first few months and/or braces in their teenage years.

Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) (often called Otolaryngology Specialists)

Monitoring of ear function and treats hearing difficulties surgically. They will assist with the diagnosis and treatment of breathing problems, nose and throat infections, voice and resonance issues.

Nursing Staff

Both at the plastic surgery clinic and on the hospital ward, nursing staff are there to provide you and your child with cares and support before and after surgery.

Other professionals may also be involved with your child’s care at various times.


Tests your child’s hearing.

Dental Team

This includes an Orthodontist and a Dentist as they both monitor tooth and jaw development and either provide or facilitate the provision of routine oral health care. They offer advice about tooth decay and gum disease prevention and also make up braces and appliances specific to your child’s needs. If you require pre-surgical appliances they will check the progress, usually fortnightly.


If your child is having difficulty feeding or is growing slowly, a dietician can work with the family.

Genetic Counselling Service

They will discuss with you the possible rates of recurrence and the likelihood of passing this on to future family members.

Lactation Consultant

There to advise on issues relating to breastfeeding and expressing breastmilk.


Looks after the general health needs of your child. A Paediatrician will look at medical issues facing your child.


Photos are taken to record progress.

Social Worker or Needs Assessor

Will assess whether you may be eligible for any of the financial or practical benefits available.