How to become a dental nurse

How to become a dental nurse

A dental nurse is who works closely with the dentist, giving assistance throughout a patient’s visit. A suitable trained and qualified nurse may monitor the patient’s welfare if the dentist general anesthetic.

A dental nurse has to maintain sterile conditions and assure health and safety policy is adhered to. They have to record information about each and every patient who comes to the doctor and carry out stock control. They may also have to process radiographs.

It is important to ensure that a patient should feel comfortable and relaxed at all times.  In general practice, a dental nurse may work or help in reception and with the administration of the practice.

You can work in general practice, within a hospital or even in the armed forces.

                                                                    What do they do?

In a dental practice you will have to welcome patients and allocate direct support with the treatment itself;

  • Listening to the dentist’s instruction and follow them
  • Passing instruments to the dentist, therapist or hygienist
  • Removing water and saliva from the patients mouth during treatment
  • Preparing materials to make fillings
  • Taking responsibility for the decontamination of instruments
  • Maintaining dental operating equipments
  • Assuring that all necessary materials and supplies are in place
  • Looking after patient’s records – including making notes when the dentist is examining patient
  • Working closely with dentist, answering quickly to requests and generally keeping the surgery ready for use
  • Taking X-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions, make models of teeth
  • Applying fluoride to prevent tooth from decaying
  • Keep areas in the surgery sterile
  • Handling confidential patient information
  • Caring for people who may be anxious
  • Booking appointments for patients
  • Taking payments for treatment (conditional)

                                                                    Working environment

As a dental nurse you have to work from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Some unsocial hours may be needed to accommodate a patient’s needs. There is a possibility for part time work.

A dental nurse works in NHS, private practice, community dental hospitals, industries, universities and in the Armed Forces. You may have to travel a lot when you have to work in certain branches.

Dental surgeries have to do in clean, sterile and well-lit ambience. A dental nurse has to wear uniform and surgical gloves for protection. Safety glasses and a mask are also essential to reduce the risk of cross infection. The majority of dental nurses have to work by standing which can be tiring.


What does it take to become a Dental Nurse?

Entry requirements:

You may begin your career by becoming a dental nurse. It starts as a trainee with a dental practice and training on the job or by taking a full time college course in dental nursing. In both of the cases you must learn for a qualification approved by the General Dental Council (GDC) and register with the GDC.

Some approved courses include;

  • Level 3 diploma in dental nursing
  • National diploma in dental nursing awarded by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN)
  • Certificate of higher education in dental nursing (full time)
  • Foundation degree in dental nursing (full time)

To get training on this job, most employers will prefer you to have a good general standard of education, such as GCSEs (A-C) including English, mathematics and /or science. Your personal qualities and suitability towards this profession are also important. In this path, you would work regarding a diploma.

For a full time training you would apply to one of the small number of organizations providing this option. Entry requirements may differ and if you already have some experience in dental nursing and this may be taken into account. You may check the websites of course providers for more details. You can find in General Dental Council website for a list of course providers and awarding bodies.

If you have the ability to do well with this job you may start your career in dental nursing through an apprenticeship schemes. You have to complete a diploma qualification as a part of the scheme.

If you want to work in community dental service, you may require a driving license to travel between centres.

Some other Skills, interests and qualities you need to have to become a dental nurse. To be a dental nurse you should be;

  • Be genuinely interested in the welfare of your patients
  • Have a high level of manual capability, good eyesight and good physical health
  • Be friendly and sympathetic with a calm, confident and assuring manner
  • Be capable enough to relate well to a wide range of people including children and people with special requirements
  • Have a flexible approach to work in order to adjust with the frequent changes in schedule
  • Be able to work well in a team
  • Have a good organization skill to manage the administrative prospects of the job
  • Tactful and diplomatic
  • Careful to the patient and well behaved or well mannered
  • Highly organized and properly dressed up


Career progression


Dental nurses starting out in the NHS can earn around £ 16,000 a year. The nurses who are qualified can earn between £ 19,000 and £ 22,000 a year. For private practicing rate may be differs.

Team leaders and dental nurse specialists can earn up to £ 28,000 a year.

Training and development

On both the full time and the on-the-job training routes studies are done through a combination of theory and practical work. If you select for a full time course, you can do placement work in an approved setting, which can be a private dental practice or NHS organizations.

The training you will get would normally last between 12 and 18 months and cover the areas, such as;

  • Giving chairside support during treatments
  • Oral disease and prevention
  • Emergency first aid
  • Dental radiography
  • Infection control
  • Principles and theory of dental nursing
  • Caring for patients and keeping records

After qualifying it is important to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You would be assumed to do a minimum of 150 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) over a five year period to maintain your registration.

The British Association of Dental Nursing (BADN) provides a number of workshop events and the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) offers several post-qualifying courses, such as

  • Oral health education
  • Dental sedation nursing
  • Special care dental nursing
  • Orthodontic nursing
  • Medical emergencies


Career opportunities

Experience as a dental nurse is a good solution if you need to move into working as a dental hygienist or dental therapist.

 You may also be able to go for some greater roles such as dental nurse team manager, team leader or dental practice manager.

You must feel happy to work as a part of a team and willing to learn and understand the science behind dentistry. You have to deal with a broad range of people, each of them have their own characteristics and concern so you have to be tactful and friendly and be capable enough to advice and educate others.