Introduction In the UK, one in 600–700 infants is born with a cleft lip and/or palate (CL/P). Previous research has identified patients with CL/P to be at high risk of long-term oral health issues. Yet, few of these patients are currently accessing community dental care. Aims To assess patients’ dental treatment experiences and their suggestions for improving services. Materials and methods Five focus groups were conducted with 24 adults with CL/P. Thematic analysis was performed on the data. Results Participants perceived local dental practitioners to lack knowledge about CL/P and its treatment. Consequently, some participants had stopped visiting a dental practice altogether. Participants were also largely unaware of the specialist CL/P services they are entitled to. Discussion Suggestions are made for the integration of improved training and resources for local dental practitioners. Closer communication between specialist cleft teams and local dental practitioners could also help to bridge the gap in knowledge and improve patients’ engagement with dental services. The tertiary sector has a crucial role to play in empowering patients to take more control of their oral health and dental treatment. © 2018, Nature Publishing Group. All rights reserved.