A Dental Nurse has a variety of tasks to complete both during and outside of dental procedure times.
A Dental Nurse’s responsibilities include:
- Sterilising dental equipment and making sure the correct equipment is available and in good repair.
- Sterilising the practice surgery and keeping it in order.
- Meeting patients and collating their dental records, case history, x-rays etc.
- Mixing dental fillings and moulds.
- Helping to keep the patient as relaxed and happy as possible.
- Assisting during dental procedures – passing tools, keeping the patient’s mouth clear of blood and/or saliva.
- Assisting in the recording of patient data.
- Filing dental practice records.
- Collecting fees and setting appointments.
- Answering the telephone and receiving patients.
To become a Dental Nurse you must complete a course accredited by the General Dental Council (GDC) such as:
- A national certificate in Dental Nursing
- A NVQ level 3 in Dental Nursing.
- A VRQ level 3 in Dental Nursing
- A certificate of higher learning in Dental Nursing.
You can study these courses on a full or part-time basis at dental hospitals or higher education colleges. You will be required to do work experience in a dental surgery as part of your course. No prior qualifications are required to begin a Dental Nursing course but employers will usually expect you to have a few GCSE’s such as English and Maths.
A Dental Nurse is a busy job with a lot of responsibility attached to it – both to the patient and to the dentist. The following personal skills or attributes would be useful:
- A great bedside manner. A visit to the dentist can be a nerve-racking experience for many, so a Dental Nurse needs to be both confident and reassuring.
- Good organisational skills are a must with such a variety of tasks to complete.
- Ability to work as part of a team. A Dental Nurse is there primarily to provide support.
- Ability to work under pressure. Dental procedures can be tricky affairs and a Dental Nurse has to be on the ball to see that everything goes smoothly.
- A sympathetic nature is vital as Dental Nurses provide care to a great variety of people including children and those with disabilities or special needs.
Usually a Dental Nurse operates within a Dental Practice, which includes a surgery for procedures, a waiting room, an office for admin and perhaps other rooms reserved for procedures such as X-rays. Alternatively, Dental Nurses may work within hospitals, army clinics, mobile clinics, care homes or patients’ own homes in the case of community schemes.
Hours worked by Dental Nurses are typically 8am or 9am to 5pm or 7pm. Emergency clinics stay open later and there are 24 hr dental clinics.
Due to sharp dental instruments, specialised equipment and the risk of infection, there are some dangers in the workplace. Official guidelines must be adhered to in order to minimise these.
A Dental Nurse’s job is typically stressful due to the range of tasks and roles they must perform. There is pressure to perform efficiently and always with regard to the patient’s emotional well being. Much of the day is spent on one’s feet so the job can be physically demanding as well as emotionally. Being a Dental Nurse is not a job for the lazy but would suit individuals motivated by challenge and the chance to really help people where needed.