Dental nurses are a key part of the immediate dental team, which see patients through their courses of treatment. Dental nursing is a versatile job, the requirements of which are often altered depending of the level of help the accompanying dentist needs. Their predominant role is to provide an extra pair of hands for the dentist by passing him or her the appropriate tools necessary for treatment, mixing the requested materials, aspirating (removal of water from the patients mouth using a small suction device) and setting up and cleaning down the surgery in between patients and at the start and end of the day.
Dental nurses are also trained in processing x-rays and will have the responsibility to use and maintain the x-ray processor (unless alternate systems are used, such as digital x-rays). Sometimes a dental nurse will also be in charge of the surgery’s ordering along with other important tasks.
One of the main responsibilities of a dental nurse is patient care. It is often the dental nurse who patients will seek comfort through and it is important to be reassuring and friendly.
The most common way to become a dental nurse is first by applying for a position as a trainee dental nurse at a dental practice. This will usually be four or five days a week with either one day or evening a week studying in a local hospital or college for the NVQ level 3, VRQ or National Certificate. No prior credentials are necessary. Having gained one of these qualifications you will be able to register with the General Dental Council and work as a fully qualified dental nurse.
There are a large number of opportunities in dental nursing for continuing professional development; courses are readily available, allowing dental nurses to constantly further their knowledge and gain further qualifications if desired. Dental nurses often choose to use their dental nursing qualifications and experience to study as a dental hygienist at a college or university.