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Article: Dental Careers


This article covers the following jobs:

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Nurse
  • Dental Technician
  • Dental Therapist
  • Dentist.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should find out more about the careers that interest you.

Video: - Various: Dental, Optical and Pharmacy Careers


This article looks not just at the role of the dentist but also at other people who help to keep our teeth and gums healthy.

Dental careers

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists work in dental practices, hospitals and the Salaried Primary Care Dental Service (SPCDS), helping people to avoid tooth decay and gum disease.

They do dental work such as scaling and polishing teeth, taking X-rays, and using sealants to reduce tooth decay. They give patients advice on how to brush their teeth properly and eat the right foods to prevent problems. Dental hygienists work closely with dentists, who examine the patient first and decide on the treatment.

To become a dental hygienist, you need to complete a Diploma in Dental Hygiene (usually combined with a Diploma in Dental Therapy) or a relevant degree or foundation degree course, leading to registration with the General Dental Council.


Dentists diagnose, treat and prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

To make a diagnosis, they examine the patient, ask them careful questions to find out the symptoms, and study notes on their dental history.

Routine treatment includes taking out decayed or septic teeth, filling cavities, and scaling and polishing teeth.

Dentists treat irregularities, especially in children, by fitting devices such as braces. Dentists also fit devices such as crowns and bridges.

Apart from general ('high-street') dental practice, other areas of work include hospitals, the armed forces and the Salaried Primary Care Dental Service (SPCDS). Hospital dentists might specialise in treating irregular teeth, or surgery to treat facial injuries.

To become a dentist, you need to complete a degree course in dentistry, usually over five years.

Dental Nurse

Dental nurses help and support dentists in all aspects of patient care. Before a patient arrives, they get the treatment room ready by laying out the instruments that the dentist will need and getting out the patient's dental records.

They might greet the patient when they arrive; this is a good opportunity to reassure nervous patients. While the dentist is treating the patient, the nurse hands them the tools and materials they need and takes away used equipment to be sterilised.

They mix materials for fillings, process X-rays and take notes from the dentist's instructions. The nurse cleans up after the patient has gone and gets the room ready for the next patient.

Dental nurses might also look after the clerical side of things - filing patient records, filling in forms, making appointments for patients and dealing with payment for treatment.

You might be able to start work without any qualifications, although some employers ask for GCSEs, for example, in English, Science/Biology and Maths. Dental nurses usually train on-the-job, working towards a recognised qualification.

Dental Therapist

Dental therapists provide dental care and education to adults and children.

They are able to do certain treatments, including scaling, polishing and simple fillings. They also have a health promotion and education role, helping patients to gain the skills and knowledge they need to maintain their oral health.

Dental therapists can specialise in treating patients such as children, expectant mothers, disabled people, older adults and patients with a phobia of going to the dentist.

They can work in any area of dentistry, including general practice, hospitals and the Salaried Primary Care Dental Service (SPCDS).

To become a dental therapist, you need to complete a Diploma in Dental Therapy (combined with a Diploma in Dental Hygiene) or a relevant degree or foundation degree course, leading to registration with the General Dental Council.

Dental Technician

Dental technicians work in laboratories, making and repairing appliances that dentists fit into people's mouths. Examples are dentures, crowns, bridges and braces.

Technicians use these appliances to improve the patient's appearance, or to help the patient to eat or speak more easily. When a dentist decides that a patient needs a particular type of appliance, they take measurements and an impression of the person's teeth.

The patient bites on something soft to make a hollow mould that is exactly the same shape as their teeth. The technician uses the impression and written information to make an appliance that is exactly the right size and shape.

Technicians use a variety of materials, such as porcelain, plastic, gold and stainless steel. They do most of the work by hand, with the help of small tools such as tweezers and pliers.

It is possible to train either through a full-time course, or part-time while working in a dental laboratory.

Further Information

NHS Wales Careers

Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare



NHS Jobs


NHS Education for Scotland (NES)

Scottish enquiries

Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN

Tel: 0131 6563200



Step into the NHS

NHS careers

Tel: 0345 6060655


Skills for Health

Skills for the health sector

Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP

Tel: 0117 9221155



UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)

Tel: 0161 8557409



British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)

Address: PO Box 4, Room 200, Hillhouse International Business Centre, Thornton-Cleveleys FY5 4QD

Tel: 01253 338360



British Dental Association (BDA)

Address: 64 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8YS

Tel: 020 7935 0875



Dental Technologists Association (DTA)

Address: 3 Kestrel Court, Waterwells Drive, Waterwells Business Park, Gloucester GL2 2AT

Tel: 01452 886366



British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT)

Address: 3 Kestrel Court, Waterwells Drive, Waterwells Business Park, Gloucester GL2 2AT

Tel: 01452 886365



General Dental Council (GDC)

Address: 37 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8DQ

Tel: 0845 2224141


British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT)

Address: Providence House, 11 The Broadway, Sandhurst, Berkshire GU47 9AB

Tel: 07511 128081



Dental Laboratories Association (DLA)

Address: 44-46 Wollaton Road, Beeston, Nottingham NG9 2NR

Tel: 0115 9254888



UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors (COPDEND)

Address: The Triangle, Roosevelt Drive, Headington, Oxford OX3 7XP

Tel: 0114 2264437


British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland

Scottish enquiries

Address: Forsyth House, Lomond Court, Castle Business Park, Stirling FK9 4TU

Tel: 01786 476040



Getting into Dental School

Author: Adam Cross Publisher: Trotman


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