Our guide to dental services
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to dental services

First published date December 04 2013 Amended date December 04 2013

Would you like to help a huge range of people? Do you enjoy working as part of a team? Are you interested in science? If you can answer 'Yes' to all of these questions, a course in dental services might be right for you. Dental services is a vast subject area with a great variety of available courses. You might wish to take a course in dentistry or dental nursing, dental hygiene, dental technology or dental therapy. There is also a wide range of courses available to those of you who are qualified in any of these areas. So you have the opportunity to specialise in the area that fascinates you most.


Where could a course in dental services lead?

As a dentist, dental nurse, hygienist, technician or therapist you will either work in a general practice, a hospital, community dental service, or even schools and people's homes. The most popular careers within the dental sector are outlined below.



Dentists lead the dental team. From root canal treatment to oral surgery, a dentist is responsible for treating and diagnosing a variety of dental problems. This requires detailed knowledge of human anatomy and oral diseases, and top-class clinical skills.

As a dentist you will need good managerial and organisational skills to effectively lead your team. If you work in a hospital, you may choose to specialise in a particular area to become a consultant.

Courses: To become a dentist, you will need to study a degree course accredited by the General Dental Council. A university dentistry course normally lasts five years. You will study a variety of life sciences and oral disease processes, and carry out supervised practical placements.


Dental nurse

Dental nurses assist dentists, hygienists and therapists. They help with treatment and take care of patient records. A key part of the job is making patients feel comfortable and relaxed, so you must be confident and caring to ensure they have a positive experience. After all, some of us have a deep-seated fear of going to the dentist (a condition known as dentophobia). You might choose to specialise and qualify in an area like sedation or dental radiography.

Courses: To work as a dental nurse you will need a recognised qualification, such as the Diploma awarded by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, the Level 3 vocational qualification in Dental Nursing, or the Certificate of Higher Education in Dental Nursing. These courses take between one and two years.


Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists play a vital role in stopping dental problems before they arise.

They prevent and treat gum disease, scale teeth and polish them, and assist patients undergoing surgery or difficult orthodontic treatment. They promote good oral health practice by showing children and adults how to look after their teeth and gums. It is important you are able to communicate with a wide-range of people from toddlers to the elderly.

Courses: To practice as a dental hygienist you need to have undertaken a course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). There are two main routes to qualify as a dental hygienist. First, you could take a two-year Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Therapy. Or second, you could take a degree in Oral Health Science, which typically takes three years.


Dental therapist

Dental therapists deal with routine dental work. Their obligations include extracting baby teeth, carrying out fillings, scaling and polishing teeth. Dental therapists are also concerned with dental education.

Courses: Dental therapists must take a course, either at diploma or degree level in dental therapy. These courses take up to three years.


Dental technician

If you prefer creating things, you might consider a course in dental technology. Dental technicians make dentures, crowns, bridges and braces to improve how a patient chews, looks or speaks. They have excellent knowledge about dental and facial anatomy, as well as a spark of creativity. Dental technicians normally work in a lab linked to clinics where complex cases, like facial reconstruction, are handled.

Courses: There are two entry routes as a dental technician. You could become a trainee at a laboratory and then take a part-time college course leading to the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Dental Technology, which usually takes three years. Or you could take a three-year degree course in dental technology at university.


How can you choose the right dental services course for you?

As courses in dental services are so varied, you must think about which branch interests you most. And make sure you have the relevant qualifications and experience to take the course of your choice. It might be a good idea to first organise a work placement with your local dental surgery.


What kind of person do I need to be?

To make the most of a dental hygiene course you must be:

  • Willing to study and continually update your scientific knowledge in areas like human anatomy and oral disease processes.
  • Good with your hands and have sharp eyesight and colour vision.
  • A good communicator so you can explain to clients from a wide-range of backgrounds how they can keep their teeth and gums in top condition.
  • Happy to work as part of a team as the dental care team consists of a diversity of specialists.
  • Caring and sympathetic to put people at ease.


By Nick Kennedy