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How to become a Dental Nurse

dental nurse careers

What does a Dental Nurse do?

A dental nurse works closely with the dentist, providing assistance throughout a patient’s visit. Dental nursing includes preparing the surgery, passing instruments, removing water and saliva from the patient’s mouth, sterilising instruments, and preparing fillings. If the dentist uses general anaesthetic, a suitably trained and qualified nurse may monitor the patient’s welfare.

The dental nurse maintains sterile conditions and ensures health and safety policy is adhered to. They help the dentist to record information about each patient and carry out stock control. They may also process radiographs.

Ensuring patients feel comfortable and relaxed at all times is important. In general practice, a dental nurse may assist on reception and with the administration of the practice.

To pursue this career you would need to be trained in dental nursing - either by taking a course beforehand or by learning on the job.

What's the working environment like working as a Dental Nurse?

Dental nurses generally work 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday. Unsocial hours may be required to accommodate patients' needs. Part-time work is sometimes possible.

Dental nurses work in the NHS, private practice, community dental services, hospitals, industry, universities or the Armed Forces. Travel may be involved when working in certain branches.

Dental surgeries are clean, sterile and well-lit. A dental nurse wears a uniform and surgical gloves for protection. Safety glasses and a mask are also necessary to reduce the risk of cross-infection.

The majority of a dental nurse's work involves standing, which can be tiring.

What does it take to become a Dental Nurse?

To be a dental nurse you should:

  • be genuinely interested in the welfare of your patients
  • have a high level of manual dexterity, good eyesight and good physical health
  • be friendly and sympathetic with a calm, confident and reassuring manner
  • be able to relate well to a wide range of people including children and people with special needs
  • have a flexible approach to work in order to cope with frequent changes in schedule
  • be able to work well in a team
  • have good organisation skills to manage the administrative aspects of the job.

Dental Nurse Career Opportunities

Dental nurses can work in general practice, hospitals, the Community Dental Service, industry, university and the Armed Forces.

Registered dental nurses may expand their knowledge and capabilities by studying for a NEBDN post-qualification certificate. They are available in a number of specialist areas, including:

  • Oral Health Education
  • Dental Sedation Nursing
  • Dental Anaesthetic Nursing
  • Special Care Dental Nursing
  • Orthodontic Nursing.
You must be on the Voluntary National Register of Dental Nurses in order to sit the NEBDN's post-qualification examinations.

Additional examinations, such as a qualification in radiography, allow dental nurses to take on more responsibility, such as the taking of radiographs. Some dental nurses choose to train as Dental Hygienists or Dental Therapists; see relevant job profiles for more information.

There may be an improvement in pay and prospects if statutory registration with the General Dental Council is introduced. The role of the dental nurse could be expanded and some dental nurses may become practice managers. In large dental practices, dental units, hospitals and in the community dental service there are opportunities for senior posts.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Dental Nurse that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

The General Dental Council
37 Wimpole Street
Tel: 020 7887 3800

British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)
PO Box 4
Room 200
Hillhouse International Business Centre

National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN)
110 London Street
Tel: 01253 778417