What does a dental nurse do?

dental nurse

What does a dental nurse do?

dental nurse


A dental nurse is a vital dental team member, providing essential support to the dentist and enhancing patient care. This key role involves many tasks ranging from patient management to maintaining high standards of cleanliness and hygiene in the dental environment. This career choice can offer long-term stability if you’re adaptable and willing to keep up with the continuous advancements in this field and would enjoy the part you’ll play in the continuous improvement of patients’ dental care.

In this article, we will discuss the role and responsibilities of a dental nurse, their earnings, required skills and similar job opportunities.


What does a dental nurse do?

A dental nurse works closely with the dentist, assisting with a patient’s visit. This can involve anything from preparing the necessary instruments to recording important information about the patient’s oral health. As a dental nurse, you’ll play a crucial role in many dental procedures by ensuring that the dentist has the right instruments and materials when needed. Typical dental nurse responsibilities include:


Preparation of instruments and equipment

In preparation for dental procedures, the dental nurse must ensure that the right instruments and materials are at hand. This ensures procedures run smoothly and the patient receives excellent care.


Patient management

A dental nurse often acts as a first point of contact for patients – putting them at ease, carrying out checks, explaining procedures, and answering any questions. Comforting nervous patients and managing patient flow are integral parts of the job.


Sterilisation and hygiene

Given the sensitive nature of dental work, maintaining high levels of cleanliness and hygiene is crucial. This includes sterilising instruments and ensuring that the clinical environment is always clean and safe.


Where does a dental nurse work?

As a dental nurse, you’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Private dental practices
  • Hospitals
  • Community dental services
  • Dental schools.


Is it hard to become a dental nurse?

Becoming a dental nurse requires dedication, but it’s not necessarily hard if you have the interest and potential to do the job well. Generally, to enter this profession, you would need to undertake a course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). This could be a foundation degree or diploma in dental nursing. Although no specific prior qualifications are needed, a good general education is beneficial, as is any work experience gained within a dental environment. It’s important to remember that continuous professional development is part of the job, so expect to be learning constantly.

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Skills of a dental nurse

A dental nurse needs specific skills to support dentists and care for patients in dental settings effectively. These skills range from having an excellent understanding of the tools and procedures used in dental surgery to possessing excellent communication and people management skills. Some essential skills for a dental nurse include:


Attention to detail

Attention to detail is crucial in this role. This includes following instructions accurately, understanding complex dental procedures, and overseeing the finer details of patient management and care.


People skills

Being a great communicator is an important skill for a dental nurse. You’re often the first person that patients interact with, so being able to make them feel at ease, address any concerns they may have, and effectively communicate instructions is essential.


Ability to work under pressure

Working in a dental clinic often involves managing various tasks at once while maintaining high professionalism. Working in a fast-paced, pressured environment while remaining calm is a crucial skill for a dental nurse.


Manual dexterity

Manual dexterity is beneficial, as dental nurses must handle small precision tools and equipment. Having steady hands can make these tasks easier and more efficient.


Average salary and job outlook for a dental nurse

The average national salary for a dental nurse in the UK is £12.54 per hour. However, according to data from the National Careers Service, as you become more experienced in the role you could expect to earn in the region of £30,000 per year. This considers your years of experience as a dental nurse, the size of your employer’s dental practice and its location within the UK, and any specialist skills you might have gained through formal or on-the-job training.

Regarding job outlook, the dental nursing field is expected to grow consistently. According to the General Dental Council, the regulator of dental professionals in the United Kingdom, there is a steady demand for dental nurses. This is influenced by ageing demographics, increasing dental health awareness, and the growing need for preventative dental healthcare. This means a career as a dental nurse could offer long-term job stability and many opportunities to progress your skills, and therefore salary expectations, within this field.

If you’re interested in a career within the dental health field, other roles you may wish to explore include:


Dental hygienist

National average salary: £34.67 per hour

Primary duties: As a dental hygienist, your main role is to professionally clean patients’ teeth, provide dental health education and offer advice on oral hygiene. You may also be involved in preventative dental care activities.


Dental receptionist

National average salary: £11.23 per hour

Primary duties: A dental receptionist handles the administrative duties of a dental office, setting appointments, handling patient records, and interacting with patients daily.


Dental therapist

National average salary: £43,000

Primary duties: Dental therapists perform clinical treatments, such as fillings or extractions. They also provide preventative dental care advice and carry out routine dental work.

Find dental therapist jobs.


Dental technician

National average salary: £30,530

Primary duties: Dental technicians work behind the scenes, creating dental prosthetics, such as bridges, crowns, and dentures, based on the dentist’s specifications.


Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.