If you’re exploring the possibility of training to be a dental nurse, then it’s only natural to look beyond and investigate what your options are long term.
With most other qualifications, there is usually a clear trajectory towards university. There the subject allows for undergraduate, masters and doctorate level studies.
With dental nursing, things work a little differently. Much like a nursing degree, your options for progression orbit around your chosen profession.
That’s not to say you don’t have any options at all, they just might not be as linear as with other qualifications.
We look at the process for getting qualified as a dental nurse through to what a career in dental nursing can look like, and finally what you can do next.
Studying to be a Dental Nurse
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.
This dental nursing course covers everything you need to know to practice as a dental nurse safely and professionally. You will work through course work and spend time learning on the job as part of a dental practice work placement programme.
This will allow you to put the theory into practice to hone your knowledge and skills ahead of your dental nursing assessments.
To qualify you will need to complete both assessments. The first is a workplace assessment, part of which needs to include a complete record of experience.
The second part is a written and practical assessment that allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and decision-making abilities.
Providing you pass both of these assignments, you will be a fully qualified dental nurse.
Working as a Dental Nurse
Once you’re qualified as a dental nurse, you have a few options in terms of where to work. Most dental nurses work in a dental practice, be that a private practice or one funded by the NHS.
There will be some variation in your day as a dental nurse but there will be core responsibilities that will feature most - if not every – day.
These include sterilising and preparing instruments ahead of appointments. And making sure the dentist or hygienist has the instrument in their hand when they need it.
As a dental nurse, you will also prepare fillings and other materials, such as moulds.
A big part of the dental nursing role is building a rapport with patients and putting them at ease. The dentist is rarely at the top of people’s list of places to visit, so reassuring them is key.
The alternative for dental nurses is working in a hospital setting. In this case, as a dental nurse, you will be dealing with more complex treatments, and surgery.
However, dental nurses in these environments will be required to gain additional certificates in order to assist with sedation, x-rays and similar.
As an example, you will need a NEBDN certificate in Dental Sedation Nursing before you’ll be able to assist in procedures that require sedation.
Other certificates you can study after you qualify as a dental nurse are in dental radiography, oral health education, and orthodontic nursing.
A third, less common option is the role of a community dental nurse. As a dental nurse in this instance, you will be required to visit patients who are unable to attend appointments at the surgery.
This could be because of disability or they may be physically unable of getting there.
Regardless, as a dental nurse in this scenario, you will assess their needs, make recommendations to the dentist and monitor progress to ensure the next steps happen.
What can dental nursing lead to?
Once you are qualified as a dental nurse, 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 at grades 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 of 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 as a dental nurse awaits you.
Something completely different
Your dental nursing qualification is nationally recognised so if you ever felt like doing something different it can be put towards a university application.
Universities are becoming more flexible in terms of entry requirements – considering transferrable skills and work experience.
This means that your dental nursing diploma can help you to get into university should you want to take your career or your studies in a new direction.
learndirect is the UK’s leading distance learning provider. Enrolling on our online dental nursing course 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. Places are limited so don’t delay.