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Dental nurse

Dental nurses help dentists to care for their patients, and may also carry out reception work and other tasks.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £17,000 to £28,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You can either:

  • start as a trainee with a dental practice and train on the job
  • take a full-time college course in dental nursing

In both cases, you'll need to study for a qualification approved by the General Dental Council (GDC) and register with the GDC.

It will help if you've got some GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths or science.

You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship.

Health Careers has information on careers in dental nursing.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • practical skills
  • a calm, confident and reassuring manner
  • the ability to relate well to people, including children and those with special needs
  • organisational skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • passing instruments to the dentist or hygienist
  • removing water and saliva from the patient's mouth during treatment
  • preparing materials to make fillings
  • making sure that the patient is relaxed and comfortable at all times
  • keeping the surgery tidy and sterile
  • sterilising instruments
  • helping record information about each patient

You may also help at the reception area, booking appointments, taking payments for treatment and greeting and reassuring patients.

You may work at a general dental practice, a hospital, with the community dental service or in a university. You could also work in the armed forces.

4. Salary

Starter: £17,000 to £19,750

Experienced: £22,000 to £28,500 (dental nurse specialist)

Pay rates are roughly the same in the NHS and private practice.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and sometimes evenings if the practice opens during the evening.

If you work in a hospital's dental department you may be on call at nights and weekends for emergencies.

You'll wear a uniform and protective clothing such as surgical gloves, safety glasses and a mask.

You'll be standing for most of the day.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you may be able to move into jobs like team manager, team leader or dental practice manager.

With further training you could become a dental therapist, helping a dentist carry out the more routine dentistry work. You could also become a dental hygienist, helping people to look after their teeth and gums.

You might decide to train as an orthodontic therapist helping dentists to improve the look and position of a patient's teeth.

Health Careers has information on careers in all areas of the dental team.

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Last updated: 18 August 2017