What are the day-to-day duties?
No two days are the same for dental nurses. Catering to the different needs and quirks of patients can make the role diverse and very fulfilling. Here’s a run-down of a typical day in the life of Skylar, a qualified dental nurse from ABC Dental Care.
- 08.30 Arrive at the practice, change into uniform and get the kettle on.
- 08.35 Check patient notes for the day and set up both the surgery and the decontamination room/area accordingly. This might include switching on lights, checking that equipment is working correctly, disinfecting work surfaces and preparing instrument trays, patient notes and lab work for the first appointment. Other tasks that may be completed now or during other times of the day include ensuring emergency drugs and equipment are present, checking stock, chasing up lab work and updating the practice’s social media platforms.
- 08.55 With everything ready to go, there are 5 minutes to have a chat with the dentist and make sure I’m ready for the busy day ahead.
- 09.00 Smile at the ready, the first patient is welcomed. I may collect them from the waiting room or be ready in the surgery to greet them. I then support the dentist in their work, providing the correct instruments and/or equipment as needed for a streamlined workflow. With patients like Miss Brown, I may be taking notes, transferring radiographs or disposing of clinical waste during the appointment. I will also be a source of support and comfort for the patient herself. Many patients, especially those who are nervous like Miss Brown, will feel more at ease with the dental nurse than the dentist and may therefore ask questions or seek assurance if the dentist leaves the room or is concentrating on a task.
- 09.45 Mr Freeman is up next for a new denture fitting. He’s delighted with his temporary prosthesis and can’t stop smiling! I demonstrate some techniques to make sure he knows how to keep the denture clean and take an impression in preparation for the final denture creation. Mr Freeman always likes a chat, so I get up-to-date on his dog Brian’s latest adventures while I’m getting everything ready.
- 10.45 The short break between patients means I can check on the decontamination progress or grab a biscuit to fuel up for the rest of the morning.
- 11.00 I welcome a young Mr Jones and his mum in for an orthodontic check-up. I’ll be assisting the dentist to make sure progress is going as planned, showing both Mr Jones and his mum which areas might need more attention with the old toothbrush when they get home.
- 11.30 Mrs Willow needs an emergency appointment to fix a crown that chipped off while she was eating breakfast this morning. I’ll be readying the composite and relevant instrumentation to help the dentist rectify the situation as quickly as possible.
- 12.30 Lunchtime finally! A chance to sit down and relax, chat with colleagues and enjoy some grub. There may also be time enough to restock the surgery with sterilized and packaged instruments or get on the phone to a supplier for an order update.
- 13.30 This afternoon will be an implant appointment, so I make sure I’ve got everything ready to go. Mrs George and her daughter enter the surgery to go over the procedure with me and the dentist one last time. With everybody fully informed and happy to proceed, the daughter leaves to allow the surgery to commence. One extraction, two implant placements and temporary restorations later, Mrs George goes on her way with a smile.
- 17.00 With all appointments done for the day, the dental nurse role includes a final disinfection of the surgery, a quick stock take and a last check that all patient notes are up-to-date from the day. Equipment and lights turned off, it’s time to make my way home.
Here are some key areas to consider to ensure you’re making the most of your career, whether you’re working in a part-time position, a locum role or a trainee dental nurse job.
This will depend on practice location, but it can be very appealing. Search dental nurse jobs in your area to discover what’s on offer.
A lot of practices will pay this for their dental nurses, so you needn’t worry about taking the costs out of your earnings.
This is covered by the vast majority of practices as well, but it is always worth double-checking the level of cover provided.
Encouraged by many principals, some CPD training is provided to dental nurses free of charge or at discounted rates.
Discounted shopping vouchers & gym memberships
This is mostly a perk offered by dental groups, but it can provide a certain something extra.
Additional course funding
For dental assistants interested in radiography, sedation, impression-taking and/or implants, many practices will subsidise training in these areas. The additional skills will not only advance a career but also benefit the practice and its patients. With further training, dental nurses often become dental hygienists, dental therapists or dental practice managers.
Additional annual leave
Some practices offer team members special days for annual leave, such as birthdays.
A few practices offer a bonus scheme to encourage target achievement and reward staff for their hard work.
Generous practice social budget
Again, this mainly applies to groups and can help dental nurses organise additional activities.
These are becoming more common, giving all team members a sense of belonging. Some businesses may even subsidise or provide clothing free of charge to the individual.
In addition to your patients and your specific skill set, the type of dental practice you work in will provide another source of variation in your role. Here are some different kinds of practices and examples of how they might differ in what is required of you when working in this position.
- A job role in a predominantly NHS practice might need you to focus on oral health education.
- Private general practices will provide a wide range of treatments, so a foundation of knowledge and skills across various dental procedures will be required.
- A specialist practice will require more refined clinical experience and confidence in a particular discipline, whether that be implants, orthodontics or endodontics.
- Ministry of Defence dentistry will offer a new dimension as you may be required to participate in physical training and you’ll be helping to provide rapid solutions to patients.
- Regional mobile surgeries are becoming more commonplace, whereby you’ll need to be able to travel and adapt safe clinical practices so as to be viable in a smaller, self-contained environment.
- Domiciliary dentistry will provide the opportunity to visit care homes or patients at home. Communication skills and the ability to think on your feet and tailor care to each individual will be key.
- Prison environments can be challenging in this role, as patients may have little access to oral health products or education.
There are a number of ways to become a fully qualified dental nurse. The most common of these is to work as a trainee and complete a dental nursing course approved by the General Dental Council whilst on the job. To get accepted onto a college course, such as a Level 3 dental nursing diploma, you will need 4-5 GCSEs at A* to C (9 to 4). Another route into dental nursing is to complete an apprenticeship at a dental surgery or with the armed forces. Once you’re qualified, you can then start to apply for dental nurse roles across the country.
- Create a strong CV with your achievements in the correct order. Make it no more than two pages and in .doc format
- Double check spelling and grammar
- Explain any and all gaps in employment
- Include plenty of content detailing your current role
- Prepare a cover letter
- Make sure you have researched the practice/company and have a good idea of what they offer
- Only apply for dental assistant jobs you would accept
- Change settings on social accounts to private so personal content cannot be accessed by prospective employers
- Be as flexible as possible for interviews
- Have written references prepared
- Carry proof of any additional courses you’ve completed, such as certificates
- Always present a clean and fresh appearance
- Arrive early for your interview
- Tailor your answers to interview questions according to what the practice/company does and/or focuses on
- Send a ‘thank you for your time’ email to your interviewer.