How to Become a Dental Nurse in a Hospital Setting | learndirect

How to Become a Dental Nurse in a Hospital Setting

Posted on 07/09/2020
How to Become a Dental Nurse in a Hospital Setting

Becoming a registered dental nurse is a tremendous achievement, but for many it is just the start of an exciting career in dental nursing.

While most dental nurses work in ‘high street’ practices up and down the country, some go on to work in a hospital setting.

The hospital setting is where the more invasive or complex procedures take place. This can include surgical extractions and dental implantations – such as restorations.

Working as a dental nurse in a hospital setting requires the exact same qualifications as any other dental nurse.

However, several procedures carried out in a hospital setting require specialist knowledge. As such, there are a number of post-qualification certificates you can obtain that will give you the skills you need to progress your career in the direction you want.

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Qualifying to be a Dental Nurse

To become a dental nurse, you will need a qualification recognised by the General Dental Council.

There are several courses on offer but you’re best off getting a qualification awarded by the NEBDEN – or National Examining Board for Dental Nurses. That way you can be sure that your qualification covers everything you need to know to excel in your new role.

Entry requirements vary from course to course but in most instances, you will need minimum of two GCSEs at grade C (5) or above in English language and maths or a science subject.

The NEBDN National Diploma in Dental Nursing is a General Dental Council (GDC) recognised dental nursing qualification and covers all outcomes described within the GDC Preparing to Practice document.

It prepares you in the foundations of dental nursing, so you have the knowledge, skills and professional attributes to practice safely and effectively.

In short, by the time you qualify, you will have all the knowledge you need to do the job.

To qualify you will need to complete two assessments. The first is a workplace assessment, with a complete record of experience. You will be embedded within a dentistry team and get vital hands on experience.

The second part is a written and practical assessment that allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and decision-making abilities.

Pass both assignments and you will be a fully qualified dental nurse.

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Distance Learning

Choosing to complete your studies through distance learning allows you to study based on your personal circumstances.

Distance learning allows you to study to be a dental nurse while balancing your existing commitments.

This is especially useful if you still have to work your current role until you qualify. Knowing you don’t have to make any financial sacrifices while you’re working towards your new career is a big relief to many.

The advantage of studying online is that you can start studying right away and complete the course as quickly as you want to.

You equally can work your way through your course materials as quickly as you’d like. Because all your learning materials are available from enrolment, you can go back and reread at your leisure.

This is especially useful when it comes to revision ahead of your assessments.

There are no physical classes to attend and you don’t have to wait for the start of term to begin learning. This is a big advantage over a traditional setting with set term dates. Especially if you want to change career sooner rather than later.

This also means you can complete the course in less time too. On average distance learners complete a one-year course within 9 months. There’s also research to suggest that online learners retain 5 times the information when compared to a traditional setting.

So, you’ll be able to qualify faster and retain significantly more of the information.

Post Qualification Certificates

To get the most of out of your time working in a hospital setting you will need to complete post qualifications certificates. This will give you the knowledge and skills you need to support dentists and dental surgeons in a host of roles.

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Certificate in Dental Implant Nursing

Implant Dentistry is a highly advanced, specialised dental skill which is now a widely available treatment across the UK.

It combines surgical skills with restorative expertise to help rebuild the dentition. The reasons for this treatment vary. It could be due to trauma following cancer treatment.

Due to the highly delicate and precise nature of these procedures, dentists need the very best dental nurses supporting them. It’s a highly demanding aspect of dentistry, dealing with the challenging aspects of implantology and patient care.

The role of the dental implant nurse includes surgical and restorative assistance during the many stages of implant treatment. You will need enhanced knowledge of dental anatomy and physiology to allow understanding of the implant biomechanics.

Strong communication skills are also essential. Not only during the procedure but explaining the procedure and after care to patients.

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Certificate in Dental Radiography

A qualified dental nurse who is awarded a certificate in Dental Radiography, will be able to act under prescription as an IR(ME)R operator.

Once qualified, you will be able to take intra-oral and extra-oral radiographs of patients.

This qualification permits you, as a dental nurse to work autonomously whilst still under the direction of the clinician and within current UK legislation regarding ionising radiation.

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Certificate in Dental Sedation Nursing

Conscious Sedation is a vital part of modern dentistry enabling patients with anxieties and phobias to access care they otherwise would find too overwhelming.

In the UK this involves the administration of sedative drugs which patients may take orally, inhale or have injected.

As well as reducing or eliminating anxiety, these drugs can have many significant side effects. The attending dental team need to be able to recognise and manage them in a calm and effective way.

Dental Sedation Nursing qualifications are designed to support dental nurses to meet all the requirements of ‘Standards for Sedation in the Provision of Dental Care’ guidance.

The role of the dental sedation nurse is to work closely with the dentist providing the sedation.

In addition to their other duties the dental sedation nurse will:

  • Prepare the surgery
  • Ensure equipment is functioning correctly and is ready to use
  • Ensure that any drugs are checked and prepared
  • Support the patient, providing reassurance and information while performing constant monitoring of their health and wellbeing
  • Be ready and competent to help manage any complications and emergencies

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Certificate in Oral Health Education

An oral health educator has an important role within a dental practice. It is their job to promote good oral health care and work with patients to help prevent oral disease.

The Certificate in Oral Health Education is specifically designed to equip a dental nurse with the knowledge and skills required to be able to effectively deliver oral health care messages.

You will educate various patient groups and can adapt information and communication to the specific needs of the patient.

Motivating and educating patients to make positive changes to their oral health care can be challenging, therefore this qualification also covers how to help patients change their behaviour and understand the causes of dental disease.

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Certificate in Orthodontic Dental Nursing

Orthodontic Dental Nursing certificate covers the biological background to orthodontics and encompasses the various appliances used today and how to maintain them.

This qualification also emphasises the medico-legal aspects of treatment and the importance of good communication between patient and the dental team.

The orthodontics nurse will learn a mixture of treatment styles using removable appliances such as wire orthodontic techniques which are widely used in many practices.

Successful completion of this qualification will enhance your professional development and provide evidence to employers that you have had thorough training in this specialist area.

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Certificate in Special Care Dental Nursing

Special Care Dentistry is about providing and enabling the delivery of oral care for people with additional needs.

The certificate in Special Care Dental Nursing is a qualification suitable for dental nurses who help to care for people whose individual challenges require special oral health provision.

You will receive a broad range of knowledge and understanding relevant to special care dentistry. This includes social and ethical issues, together with a working knowledge of the relevant current legislation and guidance.

You will study conditions of impairment and disability such as Down’s syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.

You will study acquired disability in adults e.g. rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. You will also study medically compromising conditions e.g. bleeding disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Mental health issues such as schizophrenia are also covered. Through this qualification you will gain knowledge and understanding of the importance of an effective team approach to person-centred oral care.


learndirect is one of the UK’s leading distance learning providers. Enrolling on our courses provides you with instant access to your learning material so you can start studying right away. You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your study experience.

Click below to learn more about our NEBDN certified and GDC approved, National Diploma in Dental Nursing and enrol today. Places are limited so don’t delay.

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