Dental nurse

Dental nurses are vital members of the dental team who provide support and assistance to the clinical teams and patients.

Dental nurses contribute to the safe and effective care of patients by providing support to other members of the dental team. They promote and maintain health and safety in the workplace and make sure there is a high standard of infection control. They are essential in delivering high-quality patient care.

Trainee dental nurses must successfully complete a recognised dental nurse qualification and then register with the General Dental Council (GDC) as a dental nurse.

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become a dental nurse, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • Maths
  • Administration and IT

Training providers will have their own entry requirements to register for their training programmes. It may also be a requirement to be in employment working as a trainee dental nurse within a suitable dental environment before commencing a recognised training programme.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.


An apprenticeship is a good way to start your career in healthcare.

Modern Apprenticeships

A Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing can be achieved whilst you work towards achieving the Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) and Professional Development Award (PDA) in Dental Nursing (SCQF Level 7).

Find out more about the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing.

The role

As a dental nurse, you would assist dentists, dental therapists, orthodontic therapists and hygienists to provide a range of dental treatment to their patients. You may also assist with reception work by greeting patients when they arrive and booking new appointments.

Many of the patients you’ll work with can be anxious or nervous about their appointment. You would help put the patient at ease and make them feel more comfortable.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • preparing and maintaining dental equipment, instruments and materials within a dental surgery
  • carrying out infection control and decontamination procedures
  • recording dental charting carried out by clinicians
  • preparing, mixing and handling dental materials
  • providing chair-side support to dentists, therapists and hygienists throughout a range of dental procedures
  • providing administration support in making appointments, taking payments and dealing with paperwork

An experienced dental nurse will use their knowledge of dentistry to anticipate what is needed during treatment sessions.

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • caring for people
  • communicating with people
  • listening
  • persuasion
  • relationship-building
  • working in a team

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • dentists
  • dental therapists
  • dental hygienists
  • orthodontic therapists
  • dental technicians
  • reception staff
  • practice managers

Working environment

You could work in:

  • general dental practices
  • public dental services
  • hospitals
  • armed forces

Useful information

To work as a dental nurse in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are over 56,000 registered dental nurses in the UK.

Learning and development

Once qualified, you must register with the General Dental Council (GDC). Afterwards, you can join the British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN).

As a dental nurse, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). This is in order to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Every 5 years, you must complete 50 hours of CPD activities that must include:

  • medical emergencies
  • radiology and radiation protection
  • disinfection and decontamination

You must also do this to maintain your registration with the GDC.

Progression is possible and with experience and the correct qualifications, you could change your career path. This role could lead to a dental nurse specialist role, or you could apply for a position as an orthodontic therapist or dental therapist.

With experience and additional training, you could develop your knowledge and skills to extend your role within the professional scope. This includes:

  • impression taking
  • taking dental radiographs
  • clinical photographs
  • apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay