A dental nurse will usually assist a dentist with work they do with patients and do other jobs within the practice. Their salary can vary depending on experience and location.
A dental nurse will start off as a trainee and will train while they are in the job. They will study for a course approved by the General Dental Council and register with them afterwards. It is possible to do an apprenticeship as well. Although there are no formal qualifications required, it will help to have a good standard of education with GCSE’s at a level of C or above in English, Maths and Science. Higher qualifications will put applicants at an advantage over others. There will also be a number of necessary skills such as practical skills, a clam manner and the ability to work with people of all ages including those with learning disabilities.
There will be practical roles such as passing instruments to the dentist, preparing fillings and removing saliva and water from the patient’s mouth. However, they will also help the dentist in making sure that the patient is comfortable, which can be difficult for nervous patients and some children. They will also have to sterilise equipment but also keep the surgery sterile and tidy. They may also keep the patients notes up to date. There may also be an expectation to help with booking appointments, work in the reception area, taking payments and greeting patients. There will also be an expectation that the nurse will work very closely with the dentist, doing as asked and perhaps even predicting what might need to be done before they are asked.
Work could be in a general dental practice, a private or NHS one but could also be in a hospital, community dental service, in a university or the armed forces.
Salary will depend on experience. A starter salary would be £17,000-£19,259 but a more experienced dental nurse specialist would make £22,000 to £28,300. NHS and private practice pay tend to be about the same. If you work in or near to London then you could expect a London weighting to be added to that pay amount.
Working hours tend to be 9-5 Monday to Friday but there may be evenings and Saturday morning work if the practice opens at those times. In a hospital you may need to do emergency treatment at nights or weekends. You will have a uniform to wear as well as gloves, mask and safety eyewear. You will be standing up a lot of the time.
It is possible to progress in your career and you could become a team leader, team manager or even a dental practice manager. It may also be possible to train to become a dental therapist or hygienist. An orthodontic therapist is another possible role that you may wish to take on. It can therefore be a good role to take on initially which could lead to exciting things in the future as well, as long as you are prepared to take on some extra training.