My Dental Nursing Career Path

Article-pictureemmaI started dental nursing when I was eighteen. Before this, I completed an NVQ Level 2 in childcare, but I didn’t feel challenged enough by it. I knew I wanted to care for people and make a difference. One day, I was sitting with my Nan, pondering which career path to choose. She said, ‘Em – you have got great teeth. Why not dental nursing?’. Before then, I had never even considered it. But funnily enough, the week after that I saw a nearby job opportunity as a trainee dental nurse – so I went for it.  

I got the job in the November, and I planned to start my NVQ Level 3 in the January. I will never forget my first day – or my first few weeks, for that matter. The practice was a five-surgery NHS practice, and I had never experienced anything like it before. I just felt so overwhelmed by the pace of it and all the different treatments. For weeks, I was thinking: what have I done? I will never get the hang of this! But once I started my course, which took place on Monday evenings, the job just got more and more interesting. I loved it.  

Once I had finished my course, I didn’t do any other courses for a few years. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; it was that the practice that I was working at didn’t feel the need for another person to be trained in oral hygiene.  However, I found that I was sitting at work each day thinking more and more about the scale of the problem with tooth decay, especially in young children. I always found it very upsetting. I soon realised that I didn’t want to sit with the dentist whilst they gave the patient their oral hygiene and dietary advice; I wanted to be out there making a difference myself. I moved practices so that I was able to complete my course. Unfortunately, at the practice I went to, the promises that had been made to me in my interview didn’t materialize – but I wasn’t going to let it stop me. Even though I didn’t complete my OHE at this practice, I did have a lot of responsibility with regard to the CQC and staff training. This was a real pleasure, and the more I did it, the more I realised I enjoyed teaching people new things. 

So, after four years, I moved back into the NHS to complete my oral hygiene education qualification. Shortly after that, I went on to complete my fluoride application course. Then I got the learning bug and felt the need for the fulfilment of learning once again. Now, I have gone beyond my wildest dreams and completed my teaching and assessor qualification. I feel that I am in a very good place in my career, and now I would like to help other dental nurses to reach their goals too.  

My passion is to make a difference in people’s lives, and I feel that I can do this now. I have the tools, knowledge and experience to help prevent tooth decay.  I am currently going around schools and nurseries in my local area and teaching children about tooth brushing and the importance of a good diet. I love being able to apply the tools and the knowledge that I have worked so hard for, and I love using them for the greater good. To make people realise the importance of oral hygiene and to give them an awareness of how to put it into practice is very rewarding.  I find it so satisfying that in a couple of hours you can give people tools that they can use for the rest of their lives.  

Throughout my journey, I have made some amazing friends and had some fantastic bosses – and I’ve had some great laughs. My advice for anyone who is starting their dental nurse journey is: ‘Never give up, and always believe in yourself. With a bit of hard work and determination, you can have the career you want.’

Emma Leather

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