The basic role of a dental nurse is to provide chairside support to the dental practitioner and support the patient throughout dental treatment. A typical day for a dental nurse may begin with checking the day list and preparing the surgery for the first treatment.
The dental nurse is required to set out all equipment, instruments and materials for the treatment and remain close by throughout. During the treatment, the dental nurse assists the dentist by passing instruments, mixing materials, monitoring and reassuring the patient. On completion of each procedure, all used equipment must be safely cleared away and disinfected or sterilized as appropriate. One of the main responsibilities of the dental nurse is to ensure that good cross infection control is maintained at all times and that all patients are treated in a safe and welcoming environment. Most dental practices have a wide variety of treatments booked for the day and as a dental nurse you will quickly learn to assist with procedures ranging from various types of fillings to extractions and crown preparations.
Have you got what it takes?
No formal qualifications are required to be able to start working as a trainee dental nurse, however candidates must enrol on to a dental nursing course and must have sound knowledge and understanding of the English language.
One of the most important qualities of a dental nurse is the ability to relate to people, no matter what their background. You will be required to deal with people from all walks of life, including those with special needs, children and elderly and those with limited language skills. As a dental nurse you must be able to remain calm under pressure as dental environments can get very busy, yet patients must be dealt with in a calm and reassuring manner. You must be able to empathize with patients and put their interests first. A flexible approach to work is always a plus, even more so in the dental environment, as unexpected things can happen, and do happen. Although medical emergencies are rare, patients need to be seen for emergency appointments booked at short notice at times and sometimes treatments do not go as planned.
Good manual dexterity and good eye sight are musts for a dental nurse as you will be required to handle small items, for example implant equipment and be able to mix materials precisely.
You should be organized and take pride in your environment. Dental practices must adhere to strict national guidelines and legislations, a primary aspect of these is to ensure that your surgery is clean and tidy at all times and that instruments and equipment are organized, easily retrievable and well-maintained.
Upon qualification, dental nurses must register with the General Dental Council, the profession’s regulatory body. It is a criminal offence to practice as a dental professional in the UK without GDC registration.
When it comes to career progression in the dental world, the sky really is the limit. You will start out as a dental trainee but with hard work and studying you can gain your basic dental nursing qualification in just 12 months. Once a registered dental nurse, the number of post-qualification courses to choose from is vast – from radiography to impression taking, orthodontic nursing to oral health education, dental sedation nursing to implant nursing, the choice is yours! If you love being in surgery and you are not afraid of studying full time, becoming a dental hygienist or therapist will not only give your résumé a boost, but you will also enjoy a very competitive salary and the option to work part time.
Many dental nurses decide to progress into the administrational side of dentistry. They often start by helping out with reception duties and climb the career ladder by becoming administrators, assistant managers and practice managers.
Tutoring and dental assessing is another great way to utilize your dental knowledge and get your teeth into something very different.