A dental nurse supports the dentist in all aspects of patient care, this includes getting the appropriate instruments ready, mixing materials and ensuring patient comfort. They will also take notes from dentists dictation for records and once the patient has left, the dental nurse tidies the surgery and sterilises all of the instruments.
In general practice, sometimes the dental nurse may help with reception work - making appointments, taking payments, dealing with paperwork and meeting and reassuring patients.
Dental nurses can be employed in general practice, hospitals or the community dental services and can also train as a dental nurse in the armed forces.
There are usually no academic qualifications needed to work as a trainee dental nurse, but in order to progress, you will need to study for an approved course in dental nursing (see below). Part-time courses will typically require GCSEs at grade D-G (or equivalent) for entry, although others may require GCSEs at grade A-C (or equivalent) as a minimum. Full-time courses may require evidence of A' level/AS level study.
Intending applicants should always check with the course provider for details of entry requirements.
In addition to evidence of academic ability, employers will expect a friendly, responsible attitude and positive approach to people and a willingness to study.
To work as a dental nurse, you must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) - see below - and in order to register, you need to have successfully completed a course approved by the GDC.
There are two ways to gain these qualifications.
One way is to secure a position as a trainee dental nurse - usually in a general dental practice - and then study on a part-time basis (day release or evenings) for the NEBDN National Diploma in Dental Nursing awarded by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN), NVQ level 3 in Dental Nursing, level 3 VRQ in Dental Nursing or QCF level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing.
These courses are run by some dental hospitals, further education colleges and a number of other training providers.
The NEBDN National Certiificate is awarded to dental nurses who have passed the examination and completed the equivalent of two years of full-time surgery. Some NHS trusts may offer the chance to train through an apprenticeship in dental nursing. For general information about apprenticeships, please click here
The other way, is to do a GDC approved full-time course currently offered by a small number of universities.
For details of centres offering the national certificate, NVQ and VRQ courses, please see the NEBDN website
In order to work as a dental nurse, you must be registered with the GDC which regulates dentists and dental care professionals. In order to register with the GDC, you need to have successfully completed an approved qualification. For more information visit the GDC website
Experience as a dental nurse is usually a requirement for those wishing to become a dental hygienist or dental therapist (sometimes known as oral health practitioners).
With experience and further training, dental nurses can also work as orthodontic therapists
Job vacancies in the NHS are advertised in a range of places including the NHS Jobs website Posts in general dental practice are often advertised on the Jobcentre Plus website
At your interview you should discuss with your prospective employer how you might study for an approved qualification in dental nursing. If you want to study one of the full-time courses, you will need to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
British Association of Dental Nurses
PO Box 4
Hillhouse International Business Centre
Tel: 01253 338 360
Fax: 01253 773 266
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (for general enquiries)
National Examining Board for Dental Nurses
110 London Street
Tel: 01253 778 417