Dental nurses work as part of a dental team. They help dentists with all aspects of patient care. They assist dentists during treatments as well as possibly taking payments and dealing with paperwork.
You could be:
talking to patients to reassure them
keeping the waiting area and surgery clean and tidy
maintaining and sterilising equipment
assisting the dentist in all clinical procedures such as examinations, fillings, extractions and other chairside requirements
mixing amalgam or composite resin for fillings
updating patient records
covering reception – answering the phone, making appointments or taking payments.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Many dental nurses work for private dental surgeons. A trainee might start on around £12,000 a year while a qualified nurse might start on around £16,000-£18,000 a year.
Dental nurses who work for the National Health Service (NHS) are paid on the Agenda for Change scales. The current pay scales are from April 2021. They start off at Band 3, £21,709 to £23,603 a year. Qualified dental nurses are on Band 4, £23,709 to £25,982 a year.
You would work in a dentist’s surgery, a clinic or a hospital.
Working hours are usually regular but can be set by the dentist.
You may need to work some evenings and weekends, perhaps with early morning starts.
You would wear a uniform and sometimes protective clothing such as gloves or a mask.
You must first complete a course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC), and then register with the GDC as a qualified Dental Nurse.
The GDC approves two qualifications that are available in Scotland: The National Diploma in Dental Nursing awarded by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN); and SVQ at SCQF Level 7 and PDA in Dental Nursing awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
West College Scotland offers the Diploma in Dental Nursing, which leads to the exam set by the NEBDN. For entry you need 3 subjects at National 5 including English and Biology or another science subject.
New College Lanarkshire offers a Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/D) in Dental Nursing, which covers the SVQ Level 3 units and includes a work placement. For entry you need 2 Highers at C or above including English. See the college website for details.
Most get a job as a trainee dental nurse in a dental practice, or NHS hospital Dental Service, and train on the job with part time study.
You may be able to get in through a Modern Apprenticeship, with study leading to Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) at SCQF Level 7.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
You must undergo screening for, and have been immunised against, Hepatitis B.
You should be fit and healthy.
The GDC website has details of qualifications recognised for registration. Most dental nurses work in general practice and hospitals. You might get a job in the community dental service or the armed services. Some companies have their own health centres and you may find work in one of these.
able to get on well with people from all backgrounds
calm, friendly, reassuring and empathetic – patients may be anxious and in pain
well organised and able to work under pressure
able to handle fine instruments
able to follow strict hygiene rules
good at working in a team.
Training is usually on the job, with part time study for the relevant Diploma or SVQ.
When you are registered with the GDC, and you are qualified, you can take courses in oral health education, dental sedation nursing, dental radiography, orthodontics and special care.
Once registered with the GDC, you are required to undertake continuous professional development (CPD) in order to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. You must complete at least 150 hours every five years.
NES provides a wide range of training opportunities and CPD courses.
You usually need further qualifications or training to get promotion.
In private practice, you could move into practice management.
In hospital, with experience, you might get promotion to a senior job.
You might take more qualifications to become a dental hygienist or therapist, a dental nurse tutor or oral health educator.