If you’re considering a career as a dental nurse, it’s perfectly natural to wonder where your career could take you once you’re qualified.
Of course, you need to overcome that all important first hurdle, but there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead.
Dental nursing is a rewarding career that allows you to diversify into a number of different specialisms. This includes studying to be a hygienist or gaining additional qualifications to assist in dental surgery.
There are some dental nurses, having spent time in a hospital setting, decide to use their diploma to get them onto a nursing degree.
For hospitals where staffing is a constant battle, this would make you an extremely desirable hire.
Then there are those dental nurses who choose to use their qualification in dental nursing to go to university to study dentistry.
Whatever route may be right for you, first you need to gain your qualification.
Getting your Diploma
The NEBDN National Diploma in Dental Nursing is a General Dental Council (GDC) recognised dental nursing qualification which 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 order 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 of these assignments and you will be a full qualified dental nurse.
This course can be completed online – barring the in-person assessments.
The advantage is you can study while you work – and juggle your home life. So, you don’t have to make any financial sacrifices while you’re working towards your new career.
All the course material is available right away so you can start studying from the moment you enrol. Moreover, because you’re not waiting for your next assignment in the post, you can complete the course as quickly as you like.
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.
That means you’ll qualify faster than if you enrolled with a traditional college, and there’s a good chance you’ll remember more of the material too!
Once you have qualified
Once you’re qualified you have a few options in terms of where to work.
The most common is to work in a dental practice – be it private or NHS.
While there will be plenty to keep you on your toes when assisting the dentist, you will have a list of core responsibilities:
- Preparing and passing instruments to the dentist or hygienist
- Suctioning water and saliva from the patient’s mouth during treatment
- Preparing fillings and other materials
- Providing support and reassurance to the patient
- Sterilising instruments
- Processing and filing x-rays
- Tidying and cleaning the dental surgery
- Recording and filing information about patients
- Advising patients on oral hygiene
- Carrying out stock control
A popular alternative is working in a hospital setting. In this case you will be dealing with more complex treatments, and surgery.
In a hospital setting you will be required to gain additional certificates in order to assist with sedations, x-rays and similar.
For example, you will need a NEBDN certificate in Dental Sedation Nursing before you’ll be qualified to assist in procedures that require sedation.
Other certificates you can study after you qualify are: dental radiography, oral health education, and orthodontic nursing.
A third, less common option is the role of a community dental nurse. You will be required to visit patients who are unable to attend appointments at the surgery.
In this role you will visit patients in the community who are unable to attend appoints at the surgery. This could be because of disability or are physically unable of getting there.
Regardless you will assess their needs, make recommendations to the dentist and monitor progress to ensure next steps happen.
What can dental nursing lead to?
Once you are qualified you have the option of taking your career in one of three directions.
There are specific courses available for those looking to become a dental receptionist. This training will help you understand how to deal with enquiries, train you in the correct telephone manner and how to deal with complaints.
After working as a dental nurse for a few years, some people choose to become a practice manager. Practice managers oversee the dental practice. It’s a demanding role, requiring exemplary organisational and planning skills. In addition to managing staff and the day-to-day functioning of the practice, they also have to make sure government legislation is followed correctly.
To become a dental hygienist you will need to study a 2 year diploma in dental hygiene or dental hygiene and dental therapy. Or you can take a three-year undergraduate degree in oral health science or dental therapy and dental hygiene.
Some dental nurses decide to take the next step up and train to become a dentist. However, this isn’t so much a transition as starting from scratch as a dentistry degree is 5 years.
Much like training to be a medical doctor, training to be a dentist requires at least 5 GCSEs grade A-C in English, maths, and the sciences.
You will also need at least 3 A Levels, all grade A or above. And ideally in the sciences. Although some universities may accept a national diploma in dental nursing providing you have at least 2 years on the job experience.
However, check with the universities you want to apply to first. Alternatively, an Access to HE Diploma could get you in.
Regardless of the route you may take in the future, for now an exciting and rewarding career awaits you.
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 enrol on our NEBDN certified and GDC approved, National Diploma in Dental Nursing. Places are limited so don’t delay.