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Is Dental Nursing A Good Career?

11th December 20

If you’re looking for a dynamic and rewarding career in healthcare, dental nursing is an avenue you should explore.

You’ll work on the front line, with the opportunity to make a real difference to the health and well-being of dental patients. As a dental nurse, you will assist your dentist, so that preventative and life-changing reconstructive treatments can be delivered in a safe and sterile environment.

You will be heavily invested in as an employee. Receiving continual training throughout your dental nursing career so that your skills grow in line with industry advancements. Not to mention the various job opportunities available to you once you qualify as a dental nurse.

It is a profession where personal and professional development is encouraged, where individuals can discover and explore their niche to secure roles they find truly rewarding and fulfilling.

There are constant scientific developments in the techniques and technologies used in the industry. This coupled with the boom in Cosmetic Dentistry, means it is an exciting time to become a dental nurse.

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The Role Day to Day

It takes someone with good people skills to succeed as a dental nurse. Not only will you work closely with your dentist, but you will also be an essential part of the wider dental team. You must show true compassion to patients, as many will look to you for comfort and guidance through an often anxious experience.

You’ll work in a fast-paced environment where no two days will be the same. This is because dental nurses assist the dentist in all aspects of patient care and play a part in a variety of dental procedures from general check-ups to specialist treatments.

Typical duties of a dental nurse include:

  • Organising the surgery
  • Passing instruments
  • Preparing fillings
  • Sterilising instruments
  • Maintaining sterile conditions
  • Recording patient information
  • Carrying out stock control

As such, as a dental nurse, you will need to have a good level of manual dexterity, eyesight and be physically fit to keep up and work on your feet all day. Working well with others is an essential quality. Plus, you will need good organisational skills to handle the administrative aspects of the dental nurse's job.

As there are constant developments in the industry, there is always something new to learn and challenge yourself with as a dental nurse. By regularly learning new skills, you will continue to become a highly valuable team member. Discovering areas of the role you enjoy and may potentially wish to specialise in.

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Work Environment, Income and Hours

There are many environments you can work in as a dental nurse. You could apply to work in general practice in either a private or NHS clinic. Or you could opt to work within a dental hospital, in the community, a mobile unit or even within the armed forces.

Each environment while encompassing similar aspects of the dental nursing role, will have its own benefits, opportunities and challenges.

Dental nurses in a hospital setting tend to work with a wider range of oral care professionals. Often having the opportunity to assist in surgical procedures. Community dental nurses generally provide domiciliary care to those who cannot visit the clinic, such as the elderly or people with disabilities. Whereas dental nurses working within mobile units typically travel to provide treatments at schools and to disadvantaged members of the community.

Depending on which environment you work in as a dental nurse, your working hours can vary. Most dental nurses work on average 30-40 hours per week, generally from 9 am to 5 pm. Where the practice operates outside these hours, you may be required to work evenings and weekends.

A great benefit of working as a dental nurse is the flexibility often provided within the role. Many employers offer part-time and job-sharing positions depending on the needs of the practice. This can be greatly advantageous to dental nurses who have children.

While salaries can vary in private practice due to size and location, they are somewhat similar to the NHS, with qualified dental nurses starting at £16,000 a year and reaching between £18,000-£22,000 with experience. Those dental nurses working their way into senior positions such as a Team Leader can command salaries around £27,000+.

Dental nursing positions are well paid in comparison to other caring professions, providing plenty of room for progression which is excellent for those looking to work their way up the ladder.

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Career Development

Your career ambition may well be to secure a dental nursing position in which you will work indefinitely. Though if you are looking to explore further avenues, there are many career advancement opportunities available for dental nurses. This can either come with experience or by gaining further qualifications, some examples of which are below:

With Experience

Dental Receptionist

Working between the clinic and front desk will give you a taste of life as a dental practice receptionist. Dental nurses can sometimes feel they are better suited to this line of work, making the switch to become a full-time reception worker. While sufficient experience can be gained on the job, there are courses available to train in dental reception skills. Teaching you how to effectively deal with enquiries, complaints and other important aspects of the role.

Practice Manager

Many dental nurses move into practice management after gaining several years’ experience in a dental nursing position. In taking on this role you assume responsibility for the smooth running of a dental practice. Organising both employees and patients, whilst meeting legislative requirements.

Senior Dental Nurse

Again, after gaining some years of experience you could pursue the role of a senior dental nurse. Duties include allocating other dental nurses to surgeries and tasks, ensuring the team meets their continuing professional development requirements and monitoring leave. In some instances, acting as assistant practice manager.

With Further Training

The opportunities for training do not end once you qualify as a dental nurse. In gaining further qualifications you can take on some of the responsibilities of the dentist and hygienist. Plus, you can explore the areas you find most interesting. Some specialisms you could explore are:

Dental Radiography

By obtaining the relevant training in Dental Radiography, dental nurses can take radiographs of patients under the instruction of the dentist.

Oral Health Education

By studying Oral Health Education, dental nurses can offer oral health advice and education to patients under the instruction of a dentist.

Orthodontic Nursing

Courses in Orthodontic Nursing provide a detailed understanding of orthodontic theory, procedures and treatments. Allowing dental nurses to work competently in the specialised field.  

Dental Sedation Nursing

Completing qualifications in Dental Sedation Nursing allows nurses to administer oral, inhalation and intravenous conscious sedation. Often beneficial to those dental nurses looking to work within a hospital environment.

Special Care Nursing

By obtaining Special Care Nursing qualifications, dental nurses can assist in the treatment and delivery of oral care for people with additional needs.

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Getting Started in the Profession

To get started as a dental nurse, you will need to study a dental nursing course that is approved by the General Dental Council. Whether this is full-time, part-time or alongside an apprenticeship is up to you.

A popular route is to secure a role as a trainee dental nurse first. For which, no formal qualifications are required. Then dental nursing assistants will study alongside gaining on-the-job experience until they qualify for a dental nurse position. After which, they can assume the full responsibilities and maximum earnings available in the role.

Level 3 apprenticeships in dental nursing are also popular as they allow you to qualify while working as a dental nurse. Working while studying can be a real advantage since many dental practices ask for at least 1-2 years of experience.


Gaining a General Dental Council (GDC) approved qualification ensures you can legally practice as a dental nurse. For example, courses issued by the NEBDN (National Examining Board for Dental Nurses) are looked upon favourably by employers.

Entry requirements for courses can vary. Typically, at least two GCSEs at grade C (5) or above in English language and maths or science is required. Should you go on to study at degree level, A Levels or equivalent Level 3 qualifications will be required.

GDC-approved courses can be offered through both physical institutions and online learning providers. If you are studying while working, or around busy family life, online study may be a better option for you. Courses like the NEBDN National Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing are provided completely online, with no need to enter a classroom.

This takes away any constraints like keeping to a timetable and arriving on time for class. You can study when and where you please, so your education doesn’t get in the way of your other responsibilities.

learndirect is a leading UK distance learning provider. Be confident that you’re studying a quality dental nursing course that is approved, regulated and excellent preparation for your future career.

Click to view the course in more detail below.

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