Dental nurse


Dental nurses are dental care professionals (DCPs) who help Dentists in clinical and non-clinical aspects of patient care, from simple check ups to advanced specialist treatment, such as fitting crowns or dental implants. They also provide advice to patients, helping them to improve their oral hygiene.

The Role(s)

As a dental nurse, you would assist dentists, clinical dental technicians and dental hygienist-therapists to provide a wide range dental treatment to their patients. You may also help with reception work, greeting patients as they arrive, booking new appointments and taking payments for treatment.

Many patients you work with may feel anxious or nervous about their appointment. You would put the patient at ease and help them feel comfortable and relaxed during their visit.

Your main duties would include:

  • preparing dental instruments and equipment ready for use
  • preparing and mix a range of dental materials for fillings and impression taking
  • sterilising instruments in between appointments, adhering to hygiene and infection control protocols and decontamination procedures
  • providing support to dentist, technicians and other dental care professionals during examinations and procedures
  • help with x-rays
  • help patients with mouth rinsing
  • updating patient records

You will also be responsible for ensuring high standards of cleanliness and control of infection within the practice or hospital setting.

With experience, you will use your dental knowledge to anticipate what is needed during treatment sessions. You could enhance your skills with additional training, enabling you to take x-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.

Skills, Interests and Abilities

Useful skills include:

  • patience and empathy
  • a caring, helpful and friendly personality
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • IT skills
  • good level of physical fitness
  • good manual dexterity
  • excellent organisational skills

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to relate to people of all ages, lifestyles and backgrounds
  • the ability to reassure patients and help answer any questions they may have
  • ensuring the consistency, authenticity and clarity of all recorded information
  • the ability to keep your knowledge and skills up to date

Entry Requirements

All dental nurses must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) in order to work in the UK. 

Training begins on the first working day as a trainee dental nurse. NHS Education for Scotland (NES) offers an induction programme for trainee dental nurses, prior to starting on a pre-registration training programme. This enables new trainee dental nurses to gain the essential knowledge and skills necessary to work safely in practice. Trainee dental nurses must register for a GDC approved pre-registration training course after completing their induction training.

The two qualifications recognised by the GDC are:

  • National Diploma in Dental Nursing, awarded by The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN)
  • SVQ Level 3 and PDA in Dental Nursing, awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

NES has five regional dental education centres delivering the SQA SVQ Level 3 and PDA in Dental Nursing. Entry requirements for this course include SQA National 4 (SCQF Level 4) or equivalent, in English, Maths and a science subject, such as Biology. Find out more about this qualification on the VQ Finder website.

You will also need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Work experience

Increasingly, work experience plays an important part when applying for dental nursing courses. It will help you decide if a career as a dental nurse is for you, as well as confirming your interest and suitability for the course.

Previous experience of working in dental care is beneficial. This can be either paid or voluntary work in a general dental practice, hospital or other healthcare setting. You could also consider other roles in health and social care.

You are advised to contact NHSScotland boards or general dental practices in your area to discuss opportunities for work experience. Competition is extremely high, so applying early, being proactive and showing initiative is the key to securing a work experience placement.

Approved programmes

Entry requirements for dental nursing courses vary depending on the college or provider. You are advised to contact them directly about specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications.

You can visit the GDC website for a full list of approved educational institutions and dental nursing programmes across the UK.

Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Currently, there are no Modern Apprenticeships that would lead directly to a job as a dental nurse.

Learning and Development

Working as a dental nurse in NHSScotland, you will be given the training you need for the job including:

  • an introduction to the department and its procedures
  • dentistry and oral hygiene
  • health and safety
  • hygiene and infection control procedures
  • risk management

Childsmile

Childsmile is a national programme funded by the Scottish Government. It aims to reduce inequalities both in dental health and access to dental services, and improve the oral health of children across Scotland.

Childsmile training is delivered by NHS Education Scotland (NES). Full details of course availability, content, pre-course requirements and application details can be found on the NES website.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

During your career as a dental care professional (DCP), you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge up to date and relevant to practice
  • maintain your registration with the GDC by ensuring your professional performance is up to standard
  • ensure your behaviour meets the ‘Standards for the Dental Team’ guidance set out by the GDC

GDC currently requires DCPs to complete 150 hours of CPD activities every five years to maintain their registration. This must include:

  • medical emergencies (at least 10 hours)
  • radiology and radiation protection (at least 5 hours)
  • disinfection and decontamination (at least 5 hours)

Other recommended areas include legal and ethical issues, complaint handling and oral cancer early detection.

NES provides a wide range of training opportunities and CPD courses for registered dental nurses.

In NHSScotland, dental nurses start on band 3 of the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. This role could lead to a job as a dental nurse specialist at band 5. With experience and training, you could gain the qualifications needed to apply for a role as an orthodontic therapist or a dental hygienist-therapist.

Professional and regulatory bodies

Find out more information from these professional bodies.

General Dental Council (GDC)

The GDC is a UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for dentists and dental care professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the GDC website to find out more.

http://www.gdc-uk.org/

British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)

The BADN is the only professional organisation specifically for all dental nurses working in the UK. Find out more on the BADN website.

http://badn.org.uk/