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The role of a dental nurse

Dental Nurse_in_surgeryA Dental Nurse assists the Dentist in all aspects of patient care and also supports other members of the dental team. A Dental Nurse mainly works in surgery assisting the Dentist but can often work on reception and participate in administrative duties too. It is the duty of the Dental Nurse to:

  • Open and close the surgery every day.
  • Adhere to cross-infection and health and safety protocols to the highest standard.
  • Ensure that all equipment is adequately disinfected after every single patient and dental instruments are decontaminated correctly.
  • Set up for each and every patient, providing the Dentist with the correct equipment and instruments.
  • Assist the Dentist during treatment by passing relevant instruments and equipment, aspirating and retracting if necessary.
  • Prepare and mix materials.
  • Write patient notes correctly and efficiently as dictated by the Dentist.
  • Monitor the patient from them entering the room, during treatment and as they leave the surgery.
  • Offer support and reassurance to patients.
  • Carry out stock control.

If and when a Dental Nurse works on reception, duties may involve:

  • Greeting patients and checking them in.
  • Answering the phone and dealing with patient enquiries.
  • Booking appointments.
  • Taking payments.
  • Liaising with laboratories and referral practices/hospitals.

In order to become a Dental Nurse, you need to embark on a course which is recognized by the General Dental Council (GDC), such as the National Certificate, which is awarded by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) or the NVQ Level 3 in Dental Nursing. It is also now compulsory for every Dental Nurse to register with the GDC. Most Dental Nurses start their training in a Dental Practice immediately and have a day release during the week for college study. Training on average lasts about 18 months to 2 years depending on the course.

Once you have qualified as a Dental Nurse, there are additional qualifications that are obtainable such as:

  • Dental Radiography.
  • Oral Health Education.
  • Dental Sedation Nursing.
  • Orthodontic Nursing.


All post-graduate courses are awarded by the NEBDN and the British Dental Association provides most of the courses.

The Dental Radiography course enables the Dental Nurse to take radiographs of patients as advised by the Dentist. The course involves online study and theory combined with practical training provided by a qualified member of the dental team such as the Dentist. Throughout the course, the Dental Nurse has to take a series of radiographs including bitewings, periapicals and OPG’s and record the patient details and the reason for the radiograph. There are also case studies that need to be completed. There is an exam at the end of the course and you will be awarded the qualification if you have passed the exam and completed the coursework adequately.

The Oral Health Education course enables the Dental Nurse to offer Oral Health Education to patients, families and even groups of people, e.g. at a school. The course has the same elements as the Dental Radiography course and involves online study combined with practical training. Case studies need to be recorded throughout the course and there is a written and oral exam at the end.

The Dental Sedation course enables the Dental Nurse to assist as the “second appropriate person” present as well as the Dentist providing the sedation.  The course involves theory work and practical work including case studies, which can be obtained by visiting a dental practice or hospital that regularly offers sedation if your practice does not- however the sedation course is only really of use to a Dental Nurse who is regularly working in a sedation-based environment. Similarly to the previous courses, there is a written and oral exam at the end of the course.

The Orthodontic Nursing course enables the Dental Nurse to work efficiently alongside an Orthodontist. The course also has a combination of theory and practical work and an exam at the end.


Where can Dental Nursing lead to?

There are many paths available to Dental Nurses who want to advance into other areas of Dentistry, including:

  • Dental Hygiene and Therapy.
  • Practice Management.
  • Teaching and Assessing.
  • Lecturing.
  • Representing a Dental Company (Sales)

Dental Nurses can also work in different environments. There is obviously general practice, orthodontic practices, hospitals and even the Army recruit Dental Nurses.