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Dental Nurse - Careers in Nursing

A guide to becoming a Dental Nurse, from skills and qualifications to hours and income.
Written on 4/30/14

If you are interested in helping others and playing a vital role in our country's healthcare system, then a career in dental nursing may be for you. Oral health and hygiene are issues everyone should be concerned with and, as a dental nurse, you will be required to support dentists with clinical tasks, perform administrative duties - and care for patients. The role is a chance to have a significant and positive effect on patients' lives - and promises employees a diverse and exciting career.

Hours and income

Depending on what kind of dental practice you work in, your weekly hours may vary. Generally, dental nurses work 30-40 hours per week, usually from 9am to 5 pm. Dental practices are normally flexible work environments - with opportunities for employees to take up part time or job-share positions. Lots of private dental practices operate outside normal daily work hours, taking patients in evening appointments.

Although salaries in private practice may vary by size and location, they are broadly similar to the NHS - in which a qualified dental nurse can expect to start on around £16,000 per year. With experience, a dental nurse salary may rise to between £18,000 and £22,000 - and, for senior positions like Team Leader and Specialist, reach as high as £27,600.

Becoming a nurse

Prospective dental nurses begin their careers either as trainees at an existing practice or by completing a higher education course. Both routes lead to a qualification approved by the General Dental Council - and professional registration. Dental nurse apprenticeships are also available as a route into the profession.

Higher education courses which lead to dental nurse registration include:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing
  • National Diploma in Dental Nursing
  • Certificate of Higher Education in Dental Nursing
  • Foundation Degree in Dental Nursing

Dental nurses working in a trainee capacity may study for their GDC qualification on a part-time basis, while gaining on-the-job experience. To be taken on as a trainee, most practices look for bright, capable candidates with a good standard of education (A to C grades at GCSE level).

A trainee dental nurse may be able to take their GDC nursing course at their dental facility, or in a nearby college. Student dental nurse training may involve a work placement: putting prospective nurses in a professional setting to gain valuable on-the-job experience. Nursing courses with practical placement elements involve training in:

  • chair-side support work
  • emergency first aid
  • theory of dental nursing
  • radiography
  • patient care and administration

Your professional future

As a dental nurse, your training and education never really stops. In fact, after registration, dental nurses are expected to maintain their level of professional skill and knowledge, with workshops and post-qualifying courses. Nurses can choose the areas in which they would like to specialize - including: oral health education, dental sedation and orthodontics.

Becoming a dental nurse brings opportunities to work in every corner of the country - or even overseas. If you are calm, confident and enjoy helping people overcome difficulties, dental health nursing may be the perfect role for you - and certainly promises a long and rewarding career of professional and personal development.