Dental nurse
Health & Care

Dental nurses' main role is to help the dentist during the treatment of patients. They make sure equipment and materials are ready, disinfect clinical areas, and greet patients. They help during treatment by preparing patients, mixing materials for fillings and anticipating the dentist's needs. Some also act as receptionists, for example, booking appointments and dealing with payments.

Work Activities

Dental nurses might be the first person the patient sees when they enter the building. The nurse must greet each patient in a professional and caring manner.

During treatment, the dental nurse mixes materials and hands the right instruments to the dentist when they need them. The nurse takes notes from the dentist's instructions and monitors the patient to make sure they are comfortable.

The dental nurse uses equipment to remove saliva and water from instruments, which also makes it easier for the dentist to see what they're doing.

After treatment, nurses must sterilise the instruments. They are also responsible for controlling infection within the surgery. They prepare permanent filling materials and temporary dressings, and process X-rays.

Dental nurses make sure the surgery is clean at the end of the day. They must file patient records correctly and securely. They have to prepare any records that will be needed for the next day, and do any other administrative tasks.

Dental nurses may be responsible for ordering stock and equipment. At times, they might have to work in the reception, answering the telephone, greeting patients, taking payments and booking appointments over the phone or face to face.

Personal Qualities and Skills

  • A confident, friendly, outgoing personality.
  • The ability to calm and reassure anxious patients.
  • Good hand skills and attention to detail.
  • Organisational skills.
  • The ability to act quickly and calmly under pressure.
  • Teamwork skills to work as part of the dental team.
  • Stamina and physical fitness; this job usually involves spending a lot of time on your feet.
  • The ability to take accurate notes.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers for dental nurses

Dental nurses work in general dental practices, the NHS (in hospitals and the community) and the armed forces.

Opportunities for dental nurses occur in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the UK. Most dental nurses work in general practice.


Entry routes and training

Dental nurses must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). This means that your name must be on the GDC's Dental Care Professionals Register.

You can start work without any qualifications, training towards a dental nursing qualification while in employment. However, most employers and colleges will look for a good general education - English, Maths and Science or Biology are useful subjects.

Most entrants start by finding work in a general dental practice. They have practical on-the-job training. Some might have time off to study towards either the National Certificate in Dental Nursing or the level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing. Others do this study in the evenings, after work.

It is also possible to study for a full-time course in dental nursing or get into this job via an apprenticeship. Entry requirements will also vary so it is important to research each option carefully.

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