Dental Nurse

Dental Nurses assist Dentists and Dental Therapists in all aspects of dental care, supporting both the clinician and the patient. This includes the preparation of instruments, equipment and materials and carrying out infection control and decontamination procedures. They also have administrative responsibilities, including updating patient records.

Dental Nurses can do additional training in their role, to allow them to extend their duties.

NHS Dental Nurse in Scotland

As a Dental Nurse, you would assist Dentists, Dental Therapists and Dental Technicians to provide a wide range of dental treatment to their patients. You may also help with reception work, greeting patients as they arrive, booking new appointments and taking payments for treatment.

Many patients you work with may feel anxious or nervous about their appointment. You would put the patient at ease and help them feel comfortable and relaxed during their visit.

Your main duties would include:

  • preparing dental instruments and equipment ready for use
  • preparing and mix a range of dental materials for fillings and impression taking
  • sterilising instruments in between appointments, adhering to hygiene and infection control protocols and decontamination procedures
  • providing support to Dentist, technicians and other Dental Care Professionals during examinations and procedures
  • help with x-rays
  • help patients with mouth rinsing
  • updating patient records

You will also be responsible for ensuring high standards of cleanliness and control of infection within the practice or hospital setting.

With experience, you will use your dental knowledge to anticipate what is needed during treatment sessions. You could enhance your skills with additional training, enabling you to take x-rays and clinical photographs, take impressions and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.

Useful skills include:

  • patience and empathy
  • a caring, helpful and friendly personality
  • strong communication skills
  • teamworking skills
  • IT skills
  • good level of physical fitness
  • good manual dexterity
  • excellent organisational skills
  • ensuring the consistency, authenticity and clarity of all recorded information

Useful abilities include:

  • the ability to relate to people of all ages, lifestyles and backgrounds
  • the ability to reassure patients and help answer any questions they may have

All Dental Nurses must be registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) to work in the UK.

Trainee Dental Nurses must complete a recognised induction programme and be enrolled on an accredited course that leads to GDC registration. They must also be employed or on placement in a dental environment, carrying out a minimum of 15 hours of clinical duties per week.

There are two qualifications that lead to GDC registration:

A list of accredited providers is available on the SQA website.

You should contact the individual colleges or universities to find out about specific entry requirements.

Work experience

Work experience is important when applying for Dental Nursing courses. It will help you decide if a career as a Dental Nurse is for you.

Previous experience of working in dental care is beneficial. This can be either paid or voluntary work in a general dental practice or another healthcare setting. You could also consider other roles in health and social care.

You are advised to contact NHSScotland Boards or general dental practices in your area to discuss opportunities for work experience. Competition is extremely high, so applying early, being proactive and showing initiative is the key to securing a work experience placement.

Working as a Dental Nurse in NHSScotland, you will be given the training you need for the job including:

  • an introduction to the department and its procedures
  • dentistry and oral hygiene
  • health and safety
  • hygiene and infection control procedures
  • risk management


Childsmile is a national programme funded by the Scottish Government. It aims to reduce inequalities both in dental health and access to dental services, and improve the oral health of children across Scotland.

Childsmile training is delivered by NHS Education Scotland (NES). Full details of course availability, content, pre-course requirements and application details can be found on the NES website.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

During your career as a Dental Care Professional (DCP), you would be expected to undertake CPD activities in order to:

  • keep your knowledge up to date and relevant to practice
  • maintain your registration with the GDC by ensuring your professional performance is up to standard
  • ensure your behaviour meets the ‘Standards for the Dental Team’ guidance set out by the GDC

GDC currently requires DCPs to complete 150 hours of CPD activities every five years to maintain their registration. This must include:

  • medical emergencies (at least 10 hours)
  • radiology and radiation protection (at least 5 hours)
  • disinfection and decontamination (at least 5 hours)

Other recommended areas include legal and ethical issues, complaint handling and oral cancer early detection.

NES provides a wide range of training opportunities and CPD courses for registered Dental Nurses.

In NHSScotland, Dental Nurses start on band 3 of the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. This role could lead to a job as a Dental Nurse specialist at band 5. With experience and training, you could gain the qualifications needed to apply for a role as an Orthodontic Therapist or a Dental Hygienist-therapist.

Find out more information from these professional bodies:

General Dental Council (GDC)

The GDC is a UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for dentists and dental care professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the GDC website to find out more.

British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)

The BADN is the only professional organisation specifically for all dental nurses working in the UK. Find out more on the BADN website.