What does a dental nurse do?

Dental nurses are a vital part of a dental team and play a supporting role to the dentist in every aspect of patient care:

  • Making sure the patient is relaxed and comfortable before treatment
  • Preparing instruments before treatment
  • Ensuring the dentist has the appropriate equipment and it is all in good working order
  • Cleaning the surgery and sterilising instruments in between each patient consultation
  • Mixing materials
  • Assisting the dentist in carrying out manual procedures
  • Taking notes dictated by the dentist to keep patient records up to date

In general practices a dental nurse may also carry out reception and administrative duties:

  • Meeting patients and putting them at ease
  • Booking appointments
  • Completing paperwork and filing patient records
  • Answering the phone
  • Taking payments for treatments

What skills and qualifications do you need to become a dental nurse?


Dental nurses must be very good with people, have excellent communication and a sympathetic bedside manner. They must be team players and work well under pressure.

Entry requirements
You don’t normally need to have any formal academic qualifications to become a student dental nurse, but you must be willing to work towards a dental nursing qualification if you want to progress. Some courses require applicants to have a minimum of GCSE D-G grades, while others may require a minimum of GCSE A-C grades.

You must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) and do a course that is recognised by them. You must also do work experience in a general practice whilst studying for one of the following qualifications:

  • A National Certificate in Dental Nursing
  • A Certificate of Higher Learning in Dental Nursing
  • A level 3 NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in Dental Nursing
  • A level 3 VRQ (Vocationally Related Qualification in Dental Nursing

Career Prospects

Dental nurses work in general practice, hospitals and community dental services. Experienced dental nurses could also work for NHS Direct, using their people skills and qualifications to provide information and assess patients’ symptoms over the phone. With additional training dental nurses could go on to work as dental hygienists, dental therapists or orthodontic therapists.

British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)

What is the BADN?

The BADN in the only officially recognised professional association for dental nurses in the UK and it represents the professional interests of dental nurses at all levels. All dental nurses in the UK are eligible for membership whether they are qualified or not and there is a subscription fee.

What does the BADN do?

It offers support to its members on issues such as employment and salaries, as well as providing information about training opportunities and seminars. Members have access to a 24-hour helpline and receive The British Dental Nurses Journal 4 times a year.