Scope out your Career!

registered dental_nurse_scope_of_practiceThe scope of practice for a dental nurse clarifies the activity, operations and processes which a registered nurse is authorised and allowed to carry out. This term is used to report on what a dental nurse is trained to do. It explains the skills, abilities and training which is expected in the industry. It also describes the required knowledge and experience which is necessary to ensure safe and efficient practice for both dental nurses and patients. Therefore, it is essential for dental nurses to know what experience and skills are fundamental to their scope of practice and what options they can take to alter and develop their scope. There are a range of skills an individual must have in order to pursue a career as a dental nurse professional.

 So what are the skills you need?

A dental nurse’s role is to provide chair-side support to dentists and patients in all features of clinical practice and treatment. Nurses assemble, prepare and maintain appropriate equipment, instruments and dental materials. Equipment and materials are also set up for radiography, radiographs are then processed by nurses. Dental nurses perform infection-control procedures, these stop any impure exposure or addition of contaminated substances to the surgery. Nurses also ensure the tidiness of the surgery and sterilize all equipment used. Nurses are required to record notes from dentist charting and dictation. As well as this they document accurate patient records and information. One of the most important skills expected is support for patients. This includes monitoring and reassuring patients. Nurses also provide relevant advice, as well as making referrals to appropriate heath professionals. All nurses are coached in first aid and trained to cope with potential medical emergencies. Nurses are also required to be capable of performing resuscitation.

So what is the size of the scope?

The scope of practice for an individual dental nurse is subject to change over their career. What is important for dental nurses to know is that they can take control of their scope and the size they desire it to be. There are many additional skills one can expand on and obtain once registered. One option is to widen the scope.This can be done by upgrading expertise and acquiring new skills. An alternative is to narrow the scope by focusing on a specific area of knowledge. This would allow an individual to specialise in a particular field. Dental nurses have the option to take charge of their scope, they can make it what they want it to be.

So how can you shape your scope?

Dental nurses can shape their own scope of practice by attaining further skills to progress in their career. There are many choices and routes a dental nurse can make. Here is a list of additional skills and potential courses which dental nurses can pursue, issued by the GDC website:

● further skills in oral health education and oral health promotion
● assisting in the treatment of patients who are under conscious sedation
● further skills in assisting in the treatment of patients with special needs
● intra-oral photography
shade taking
● placing rubber dam
● measuring and recording plaque indices
● pouring, casting and trimming study models
● removing sutures after the wound has been checked by a dentist
● applying fluoride varnish as part of a programme which is overseen by a consultant in dental public health or a registered specialist in dental public health
● constructing occlusal registration rims and special trays
● repairing the acrylic component of removable appliances
● tracing cephalographs

Here is a list of additional skills on prescription also set out by the GDC website:

● taking radiographs to the prescription of a dentist
● applying topical anaesthetic to the prescription of a dentist
● constructing mouthguards and bleaching trays to the prescription of a dentist
● constructing vacuum formed retainers to the prescription of a dentist
● taking impressions to the prescription of a dentist or a CDT (where appropriate)

Dental nurses also have the option to practice reserved duties. This means nurses can perform different duties, with training, to gain qualifications in other registrant groups and specialised areas in the dental industry for example, the role of a Treatment Co-ordinator.

So dental nurses remember it is you who can shape the scope of your career!


Sophie Kalinauckas




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