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.
Also known as
- Dental Surgery Assistant
Video: - Claire: Dental Nurse
As a Dental Nurse, you might be the first person the patient sees when they enter the building. You must greet each patient in a professional and caring manner. People can be very nervous when going to the Dentist, so you can help to put them at ease.
During treatment, you'll mix the materials and hand the right instruments to the Dentist when they need them. You will take notes from the Dentist's instructions and monitor the patient to make sure they are comfortable.
You will use equipment to remove saliva and water from instruments, which also makes it easier for the Dentist to see what they're doing.
After treatment, you must sterilise the instruments. You are also responsible for controlling infection within the surgery. You'll prepare permanent filling materials and temporary dressings, and process X-rays.
An important role for you as a Dental Nurse is to make sure the surgery is clean at the end of the day. You must file patient records correctly and securely. You will also have to prepare any records that will be needed for the next day, and do any other administrative tasks.
You may be responsible for ordering stock and equipment. At times, you might have to work in the reception, answering the telephone, greeting patients, taking payments and booking appointments over the phone or face to face.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Dental Nurse, you'll need:
- 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
NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to their skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting - Band 2: £17,652 - £19,020
- With experience - Band 4: £21,089 - £23,761
- Senior Dental Nurses - Band 5: £24,214 - £30,112
Hours of work
You will usually work 9:00 am - 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday. You may also have to work on Saturdays.
Where could I work?
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.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
There are no set entry routes to start working as a Dental Nurse. Employers may ask for GCSEs in English, maths, and a science subject.
To become a qualified Dental Nurse, you will need to study for a dental nursing diploma, certificate, or degree programme, approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). Entry requirements vary, but you are likely to need 3 A Levels, including a science subject.
You can get into this career through a level-3 apprenticeship. On completion of this apprenticeship you can register with the GDC as a qualified Dental Nurse.
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 their dental nursing programmes. Others do this study in the evenings, after work.
You can also join the armed forces and train to be a Dental Nurse.
You could be promoted to a Team Leader post. With further training, Dental Nurses can go on to become Dental Hygienists or Dental Therapists. It is also possible to go into a dental teaching role.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
Previous experience within a caring role such as in a care home or a hospital will be really useful for this career.
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. Some might ask for GCSEs; English, maths and science or biology are useful.
Entry requirements for training courses will also vary between training providers. For example, some national certificate or level 3 diploma in dental nursing courses have no entry requirements, while some providers ask for 2 to 5 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4), perhaps to include English, maths, science or biology.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Entry to this career is also possible through an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Health - Dental Nursing.
- 15% of dental nurses work part-time.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
City & Guilds
Address: 1 Giltspur Street, London EC1A 9DD
Tel: 020 7294 2468
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
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
General Dental Council (GDC)
Address: 37 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8DQ
Tel: 0845 2224141
British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland
Address: Forsyth House, Lomond Court, Castle Business Park, Stirling FK9 4TU
Tel: 01786 476040
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844
National Examining Board for Dental Nurses
Tel: 01772 429917