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A path to becoming a qualified dental nurse

Dental nurses are dental professionals that provide support to dentists in all aspects of a patient’s dental care. They not only help dentists in terms of treatments but they also play a major role in carrying out administrative tasks regarding dental appointments. Dental Nurses are a crucial part of the dental team that help ensure the safety and comfort of the patient.

What do dental nurses do?

If you are considering dental nursing as a prospective career choice there are a few things you need to take note of that will help you along the way. As a dental nurse, you are responsible for assisting in many aspects of running a dental surgery such as (but not limited to) surgery preparation, passing instruments to the dentist during dental sessions, sterilising instruments after their use, preparing fillings, maintaining sterile conditions in the clinic, helping to record patient information, and maintaining inventory of medications.

In addition, as a dental nurse, you are not only required to have good knowledge of oral health and hygiene but you are also required to have good people skills as you are also responsible for handling patients.

How do I become a dental nurse?

To become a dental nurse firstly you will have to be certified through a General Dental Council (GDC) approved courses. These courses are flexible, where you can either study part or full time, through online courses or in an actual classes. It all depends on what is more feasible for you.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to training as a dental nurse. The method by which you train will depend on how quickly you want to qualify against your time and financial constraints.

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Where can I find GDC approved dental nurse courses?

GDC approved courses are offered through:

  • Local Colleges
  • Online Learning Providers
  • Universities
  • Apprenticeship Schemes
  • What are the requirements to study a dental nurse course?

While colleges and online learning providers might have their entry requirements that will vary depending on your provider and the type of course you choose, they will most likely ask for GCSEs in English Language, Maths and preferably a Science at C/4 or above. You don’t need to have experience or background in dentistry to study a dental nurse course.

You can even work as a trainee dental nurse without having any academic qualifications, but to progress to being a qualified dental nurse you’ll need to study for a course in dental nursing.

It is worth noting however that certain skills are certainly considered a bonus in the profession to help with your training, such as having the ability and patience to work with children and difficult patients, computer skills, the ability to work well under pressure, ability to work well in a team, organisation and a methodical approach to work, as well as the ability to multitask.

What does a dental nurse course involve?

Dental nurse training courses cover a variety of topics to prepare you for practical work in the dental field. In general, you can expect the course you take to follow these topics:

  • GDC guidelines
  • Anatomy of the tooth and basic anatomy
  • Oral health promotion and preventive diseases
  • Orthodontic procedures
  • Oral surgery
  • Dentally related drugs, materials, and instruments
  • Oral diseases
  • Health and safety
  • Radiology
  • Infection control
  • Microbiology and Pathology
  • Patient Care and Management
  • Assessing patients’ health and treatment

Where can you work as a qualified dental nurse?

After qualifying as a dental nurse there is a wide range of career opportunities to explore. These include working in general practice, dental hospitals, mobile dental surgeries or even in the armed forces. Many of these come with the possibility to work as either full or part time.

You may even choose to pursue further training so you can undertake additional responsibilities and widen your scope. This training could be on radiography, oral health education and conscious sedation. Additionally, there is scope for you to learn how to perform x-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions, make models of teeth and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.

Further prospects?

Beyond initial qualification, and additional certificates within dental nursing, with sufficient experience you could train to be a dental hygienist, dental therapist or orthodontic therapist.

If you are interested in further education, you could consider post-qualification certificate courses such as:

  • Oral Health Education
  • Dental Sedation
  • Dental Implant Nursing
  • Orthodontic Dental Nursing
  • Special Care Dentistry

Once qualified as a dental nurse you’ll have the opportunity to develop your career in other roles in dentistry should you desire. Dental nurses have broad long-term employment prospects in general dental clinics, community clinics and hospitals.

The possibilities for dental nurse career development are wide-ranging and certainly worth pursuing if you’re committed to the role. Once you have gained enough experience as a dental nurse you can progress towards becoming a senior dental nurse, a teacher within the field, or even step into dental receptionist roles, and management positions.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

How much do dental nurses earn?

In the UK salary for a dental nurse depends on various factors such as location and experience. Nevertheless, according to a recent report by the CV library, the national average salary of dental nurses is said to be between £16,000 – £28,000 per annum.

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