Dental Nurse

Dental Nurses support the dental team in all aspects of patients’ dental care. The team includes dentists, clinical dental technicians, dental hygienists and dental therapists.

Some will be there for a check-up while others will have more complicated treatment. You’ll need to reassure people and put them at ease, while supporting the team in all aspects of patient care.

Dentist with female nurse examining a patients teeth at the dental clinic by Jacob Lund from Noun Project
A day in the life of a Dental Nurse

In the video below Abbey explains what it is like to be a Dental Nurse.

Areas of responsibility

In a dental practice you will welcome patients and provide direct support with the treatment itself:

  • taking responsibility for the decontamination of instruments
  • maintaining dental operating equipment
  • ensuring that all relevant materials and supplies are in place
  • looking after patient records – including making notes when the dentist is examining a patient
  • working closely with the dentist, responding quickly to requests and generally keeping the surgery ready for use

You will also be responsible for ensuring high standards of cleanliness and control of infection. With extra training you could take x-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions, make models of teeth and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.

You may also help with reception work. Tact and discretion are important qualities for a dental nurse – you will be handling confidential patient information and caring for people who may be anxious.

Entry requirements

You can usually work as a trainee dental nurse without academic qualifications but, to progress to being a qualified dental nurse, you will need to study for a course in dental nursing, either part or full time, that is approved by the General Dental Council.

Exact course requirements will vary from provider to provider, but a minimum 2 GCSEs (4/C grade or above) in English language and maths or a science subject are usually required for part-time courses.

Full-time degree level courses may require A-levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. Use the NHS Health Careers course finder for available courses and always check with individual course providers about their specific entry requirements.

A level 3 apprenticeship in dental nursing is an additional way to gain the required qualifications in dental nursing. For details of where to search for job and apprenticeship vacancies, see the ‘Job market and vacancies’ section below.  

Skills required

You must be happy to work as part of a team and willing to learn and understand the science behind dentistry. You’ll be dealing with a broad range of people, each with their own characteristics and concerns so you’ll need to be tactful and friendly and able to offer advice and educate others. You will often need to follow instructions from the dentist.