Dental Nurse Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Dental Nurse, or Dental Hygienist support Dentists in all aspects of the dental care of patients. Their primary duties include educating patients in the care of teeth, providing treatments to prevent oral problems and offering dietary advice for oral hygiene. 

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Dental Nurse duties and responsibilities

The role of a Dental Nurse covers both health and clinical promotion responsibilities. Their main duties and responsibilities include:

  • Providing oral health education to patients
  • Using a variety of dental instruments to scale, polish and clean teeth
  • Removing plaque and applying treatments to remove or reduce decay
  • Ensuring that dental tools and instruments are sterilised appropriately
  • Taking radiographs and impressions of teeth and giving local anaesthetic under the Dentist’s supervision 
  • Applying temporary sealants and coatings to protect teeth
  • Collecting dental and medical histories and maintaining health records of patients
  • Working to a professional code of ethics and keeping up to date with recent developments within the industry
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What does a Dental Nurse do?

Dental Nurse provides preventive oral care under the supervision of a Dentist. They clean a patient’s teeth and examine their mouths for signs of gingivitis, damage and other diseases. Dental Nurses also teach patients how to maintain good oral health. 

Dental Nurses work in a range of settings, such as hospitals, general dental practices, within the community or independently. Their patients can range from infants to the elderly with various dental care needs.

Dental Nurse skills and qualifications

A successful Dental Nurse candidate will have various prerequisite skills and qualifications that typically include:

  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Effective motivation and listening skills
  • Interest in helping people
  • Steady hands and good eyesight for performing precise dental work
  • Confidence in handling various types of dental equipment
  • The ability to work well independently, as well as in a team
  • Compassion and empathy while interacting with patients
  • The ability to maintain concentration for long periods of time

Dental Nurse experience requirements

A Dental Nurse needs to have one or two years of experience in a Dental Nurse, Dental Assistant or another Nursing role to be qualified for the job. Prior experience in a dental clinic is preferable. Mid-level Dental Nurses must have three to five years of experience, while Senior Dental Nurses must have over five years of experience in the role. More senior roles may also require some experience leading a team of Dental Nurses. 

Prospective Dental Nurses must also have a strong background in dentistry. They must be familiar with various types of dental equipment, the principles of good oral hygiene, dental terminology, safety standards, procedures in dental practice and buccal anatomy. 

Dental Nurse education and training requirements

Dental Nurses must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC). To be registered, candidates must complete one of the following qualifications: a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, oral health science and dental therapy, a two-year foundation degree in oral health science or a two-year undergraduate diploma in dental hygiene. 

To qualify for a diploma or degree course, candidates must have three A-levels, one of which must be in biology, as well as GCSEs in English and maths. Candidates must also pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before they get admitted to a training programme in Wales and England (or equivalent check for Northern Ireland and Scotland). 

Dental Nurse salary expectations

According to Indeed Salaries, a Dental Nurse in the UK can expect to earn an average salary of £10.94 per hour. Their actual salary varies depending on their geographical location, level of skill and experience, educational qualifications and their employer.

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Dental Nurse job description FAQs

What is the difference between a Dental Nurse and a Dental Assistant?

While both work in dental practices under the supervision of a Dentist, their positions differ in earnings, educational requirements, duties and the number of working hours. A Dental Assistant prepares patients for procedures and examinations, sterilises instruments and hands them to Dentists. They also keep records and schedule appointments and may take X-rays if they are qualified. Unlike Dental Nurses, they don’t examine or clean a patient’s teeth, but they may be allowed to apply fluoride and sealants.

Who does a Dental Nurse report to?

In a dental clinic or practice, Dental Nurse reports to the Dental Practice Manager. In larger hospitals, they may report to the Senior Dental Nurse.

What are the working hours of a Dental Nurse?

A Dental Nurse usually works about 40 hours per week. Depending on the employer, they may sometimes have to work at weekends and in the evenings. If they’re working in a hospital, they may have to work shifts or be on call during weekends. If they’re working for a community dental service, flexibility is necessary. Part-time work is possible, for instance when working in private practice. 

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