The job of a dental nurse is to provide assistance to a dental practitioner while they carry out dental treatment. Activities would include maintaining sterile hygiene, updating patient records, handing instruments to the dentist on request and keeping an eye on sedated patients.
A university course is unnecessary if you wish to become a qualified dental nurse. You may be able to start out in a dental clinic with no qualifications whatsoever, beginning as a trainee. However, courses approved by the General Dental Council (GDC) would provide you with a good basis. Approved qualifications include the NVQ Level 3 in Dental Nursing and the Certificate of Proficiency in Dental Nursing. Dental hospitals offer such courses around the country.
Education may not be important to some dental clinics as is a willingness to perform tasks and a friendly manner with patients. However, many do prefer you to have qualifications. Courses in nursing would typically require you to have four GCSEs graded A-C, including mathematics and a science. Dental nursing courses would teach you to process dental x-rays, help put patients at ease and provide support to the dental practitioner.
Work experience is a good way to get your foot in the door and can lead to a permanent position in some cases. It is best to get work experience as soon as possible, as this will give you the time to demonstrate your eagerness to enter the profession. Work experience at a dental clinic is the best route. A course in dental nursing would also involve a good level of training on the job.
Career pathway after graduation
Career pathway will vary. Some may be able to leave school with good GCSE results and go straight into a dental clinic as a trainee. They can then partake in a training course as approved by the GDC on a part-time basis. Others may partake in training and then go on to join a dental clinic. Once enough experience is acquired you may choose to specialise in areas such as dental sedation nursing or orthodontic nursing.