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JUN 15/2013

How to become a dental nurse

Dental nurse roles involve supporting dentists in all aspects of patient care, from preparing instruments, mixing materials and ensuring that patients are relaxed and comfortable.

They are sometimes asked to help with reception work, undertaking tasks such as making appointments, taking payments and dealing with paperwork. In the surgery they are also required to take notes from dentist's dictations in order to ensure that records are correct as well as tidying and sterilising all of the instruments.

While no academic qualifications are usually needed for you to work as a trainee dental nurse you will need to study for an approved course in dental nursing should you want to progress.

Full-time courses may require evidence of A-level or AS-level study, while part-time courses may ask for a minimum number of GCSEs. It is important to check with the course provider for details of qualifications or work experience requirements.

Training for dental nursing

Dental nurses are required to register with the General Dental Council (GDC), something which can only be done once you have successfully completed a course approved by the GDC.

The first path towards doing this is to secure a position as a trainee dental nurse and study on a part-time basis for either the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) National Diploma in Dental Nursing, the Dental Nursing VRQ Award, or the Diploma in Dental Nursing.

You can study for these courses on day release or part-time at some dental hospitals, further education colleges and external training providers.

The second method of training is to study a GDC-approved full-time course, which can be accessed through a small number of universities.

It will depend on how quickly you are wanting to train or your financial constraints as to which method you think is best for you.


Once you have successfully completed an approved qualification you will need to register with the GDC, a governing body which regulates dentists and dental care professionals. You can then begin working in hospitals, private clinics or general practices.

The more experience you have as a dental nurse the easier it is for you to progress into different roles such as dental hygienist or dental therapist, professions which are often referred to as oral health practitioners.

Dental hygienists have a vital role in helping to prevent oral problems from arising and carry out essential procedures such as scaling and polishing teeth, as well as applying topical fluoride and fissure sealants. Hygienists based in a hospital can also be required to help patients who are having surgery or complicated orthodontic treatment, as well as those with particular medical conditions, to maintain a healthy mouth and oral care routine.

Through locum post-qualification experience and further training, dental nurses can also go on to a career as an orthodontic therapist, who assist dentists in carrying out orthodontic treatment and provide some aspects of the treatment themselves.

They also assist patients in an emergency by relieving pain or making sure that appliances are safe to use.

Click here to see our range of locum dental jobs

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