Dental nurse

A dental nurse supports the dentist in all aspects of patients’ dental care.

Working life

You may help with reception work and could help any member of the dental team - dentists, clinical dental technicians/technologists, hygienists and therapists – treat patients of all ages.

Some patients will be there for a check-up while others will have more complicated treatment. You’ll need to reassure people and put them at ease, while supporting the team in all aspects of patient care.

In a dental practice, you'll welcome patients and provide direct support with the treatment itself:

You'll also be responsible for ensuring high standards of cleanliness and control of infection. 

Entry requirements

You can usually work as a trainee dental nurse without academic qualifications but to progress to being a qualified dental nurse, you'll need to study for a course in dental nursing, either part or full time, that is approved by the General Dental Council. Exact course requirements will vary from provider to provider, but a minimum 2 GCSEs (4/C grade or above) in English language and maths or a science subject are usually required for part-time courses.

Full-time degree level courses may require A-levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. A level 3 apprenticeship in dental nursing is an additional way to gain the required qualifications in dental nursing. 

Must have skills

Tact and discretion are important qualities for a dental nurse - you will be handling confidential patient information and caring for people who may be anxious. You must be happy to work as part of a team and willing to learn and understand the science behind dentistry. You’ll be dealing with a broad range of people, each with their own characteristics and concerns so you’ll need to be tactful and friendly and able to offer advice and educate others. You will often need to follow instructions from the dentist.

You also need to be able to demonstrate the values of the NHS Constitution.

Career development 

With extra training you could take x-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions, make models of teeth and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay. With experience you could training to be a dental hygienistdental therapist or  orthodontic therapists. You can also acquire additional skills such as impression-taking and providing fluoride varnish as part of dental public health programmes.

Pay and benefits

Most dental nurses in the NHS work standard hours, which are likely to be around 37.5 a week. They may work some evenings. Your starting salary will usually be between band 3 and band 4 of the Agenda for Change pay rates but some senior dental nurses will start at band 5 or higher. 

Terms and conditions may vary for those dental nurses not directly employed by the NHS.

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