Becoming an orthodontic therapist - An interview with Yvonne Ward

Yvonne Ward Dip Ortho TherYou have recently qualified as an orthodontic therapist – big congratulations. To inspire and encourage dental nurses who are interested in training to become orthodontic therapists or who are looking into different areas of career progression, we would love to know more about you, your career development and the courses and training you have completed to help you get where you are today.

Firstly, what made you choose a career in dentistry?

As a teenager, my dream was to be an interior designer. I wanted to make things look beautiful whilst using my creative and artistic flair. So, to pursue my dream job I left school and studied art and design at college. This opened the door to university, where I began a course in interior textiles and surface design. Sadly, I soon realised the course wasn’t for me – it was more theory than hands-on and practical. After three months of learning about the different mediums when drawing a mushroom, I decided to leave.

Now at a loss and not knowing what to do, I was offered some valuable advice. I was told that if I wanted a career in which there would always be a job, I should consider becoming a dental nurse. 

So, following this advice, I got a job in a dental practice – not as a nurse but cleaning (in the evenings) in the hope that a trainee dental nurse position would become available. Soon I was covering some reception shifts alongside cleaning before finally being offered a trainee dental nurse position.

I jumped at the opportunity! Although I would be training with the same organisation, I would be working at a different practice twenty-five miles away. Suddenly, I was super busy. I trained as a dental nurse in the daytime and also did some hours working in an orthodontic lab. I kept my cleaning job in the evenings, studying one evening a week at the dental hospital to gain my nursing qualification. 

Two years later, after much travelling, dedication and hard work, I gained my National Certificate in Dental Nursing and was very proud of my achievement.

With my new qualification, I was able to get a dental nursing job closer to home. This provided me with valuable experience and even gave me the chance to train a new trainee, which I found incredibly rewarding (and which sparked a passion for training dental nurses).

In 2011, a position was advertised for an orthodontic nurse (in the practice where I had worked before in the lab). I couldn’t resist the opportunity to continue learning new things, so I applied and was offered the job. I’m happy to say that I still work in the same orthodontic practice, and I love it.

After becoming a registered dental nurse, what post-registration qualifications and training have you completed?

Since starting my dental career in 2008, I have continued gaining qualifications, and have been awarded qualifications in: 

  • Radiography (NEBDN Certificate).
  • Lab duties (constructing retainers; whitening trays pouring and casting).Yvonne teaching
  • Impression-taking (silicone impressions) and shade-taking.
  • Plaque scoring.
  • Clinical photography.
  • Implantology.
  • Training and education (PTLLS Level 4).
  • Orthodontic therapy.

I am very lucky in the practice where I work that the nurses are hands-on with patients and that all staff are encouraged to develop new skills.

As my own skills and confidence grew, I knew that I wanted to help and support other dental nurses. I contacted a local dental nurse tutoring group who advised me how I could become a trainer and educator. It was back to college for me – to gain my qualification in education and training.

I now train other dental nurses in different post-registration qualifications such as impression-taking and plaque scoring. I also do some examining for the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN). 

In 2016, a position as a trainee orthodontic therapist became available within the practice where I work.  I applied … and I was offered the position! 

My training began in the January of 2017, and after nearly a year of intense training and being very busy, I qualified in December 2017.

Do you think your Continuing Professional Development has helped you to get where you are today?

Without a doubt, Continuing Professional Development has given me the essential skills and experience needed to get to where I am today.

Growing and developing as a dental professional through continued training has kept me motivated and excited about the future of dentistry.

Post-registration qualifications and training have allowed me to work closely with patients, enabling me to be hands-on and just confirming that dentistry is the career for me.

How did you become an orthodontic therapist?

I have worked at my orthodontist practice for eight years. For seven of them, I was an orthodontic nurse – a career that I loved. As well as nursing, I had been focusing on teaching. 

When an opening became available for a trainee orthodontic therapist within the practice, I attended an internal interview and got the position. I was so happy.

From there, things moved really fast. I moved to Bristol to train at the dental hospital before moving back to the practice and completing my Record of Experience under the supervision of my orthodontist.

With help and support from the practice owner, my manager and my work colleagues, I qualified as an orthodontic therapist and have not looked back.

I enjoy going to work every day to do a job that I love, and I am extremely thankful to my employer for giving me such an amazing opportunity.

What advice would you give to dental nurses looking to progress their careers?

I would say to anyone who loves their job: always push yourself towards new challenges, and doors will open. I am a great believer in learning and pursuing new things, and doing so will make your job role/career so much more rewarding. 

If you are interested in furthering your career, try and do as many post-registration qualifications as you can. These will help you pursue whichever avenue in dentistry you fancy. Selecting courses that involve hands-on interaction with patients is key; these courses build your confidence and knowledge as well as your dexterity. Throughout my career, I have always worked extremely hard and with a great passion for dentistry. I have continued learning and gaining new skills and now all my hard work has paid off, rewarding me with an amazing career as an orthodontic therapist. Orthodontics is a great mixture of art and science. It offers me the chance to be creative, and – most rewardingly – it allows me to give patients confidence with a beautiful smile.


Interviewed by Emma Edwards RDN

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