If you like caring for people and variety, a job as a dental nurse could be for you.
Dentistry is the branch of medicine primarily concerned with the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and conditions which involve the teeth, mouth and jaw area - the oral cavity as it is known in dental circles. When we pop along to the dentist one might see the dentist, the dental nurse or both depending upon the condition and nature of the appointment. If you are looking for a career in a caring profession which is focused on patient care and treatment, taking a job as a dental nurse could be the ideal role for you.
What does a dental nurse do? If you are considering dental nursing as a career then this is both a reasonable and important question to ask. A dental nurse is right at the front line of dental health care provision. The role of a dental nurse is, in many respects, similar to that of any other nurse; to provide support to the dentist in all aspects of patient care.
Dental nursing jobs come in all shapes and sizes. They work in general practice surgeries, hospitals and community dental services. Dental nurses are also used in the armed forces medical corps.
Dental nursing is a very varied, interesting and highly skilled role - no two patients, dental procedures or even days are quite the same. You could be doing everything from opening and closing the surgery to preparing the appropriate instruments, preparing materials for fillings, taking impressions, processing x-rays and being the dentist’s side support during treatment.
After the patient has left they will take notes from the dentist’s dictation to keep accurate patient records and also tidy the surgery, sterilising all of the instruments and setting up for the next patient.
Dental nurses in general practice might also be asked to double up their responsibilities, helping with reception work such as making appointments and dealing with paperwork such as payments and keeping records.
One of the most important parts of the dental nurse role is to put patients at ease and help them feel comfortable.
Dental nurses in general practice are an integral part of the dental healthcare team. Dental nurses work alongside dentists assisting with the care of patients in procedures ranging from routine check-ups to more advanced treatments and surgeries. A key skill for dental nursing is team work. Dental nurses need to work effectively as part of a team of professionals.
The key duties of a dental nurse are:
- Opening and closing the surgery
- Adhering to both cross infection as well as health and safety protocols. These must be worked to at the highest standards
- Ensuring that all equipment is adequately disinfected and decontaminated between patient treatments
- Setting up the treatment area for each patient and providing the dentist with the correct equipment and instrumentation
- Assisting the dentist during treatment and surgical procedures
- Preparing and mixing materials as needed, e.g dental fillings and mouldings
- Monitoring patients from entry to exit.
Ancillary and reception duties might also include the following:
- Stock control
- Greeting patients
- Taking payments
- Dealing with patient enquiries and phone calls
- Liaising with external partners, e.g. laboratories, hospitals and referral practices
- Record keeping and database management.
Beyond this a career in dental nursing can lead from general practice work into more specialised areas. These include further study and qualifications in areas such as dental radiography, oral health education, dental sedation and orthodontic nursing. These courses involve both online, theoretical and practical training and practice which can be provided by a qualified member of the dental team, such as the lead dentist, or through an external qualification body such as visiting another dental practice or dental hospital which offers relevant treatments.
Studying dental radiography allows dental nurses to take patient radiographs and record patient details. Taking the oral health education course enables dental nurses to give patients more detailed oral health education and advice to individual patients as well as visiting places like schools to educate people on good oral health. A qualification in dental sedation allows the nurse to better assist as the designated 'second person'. Finally orthodontic nursing qualifications allow a nurse to work alongside specialist orthodontic treatment provision.
All of these options include similar combinations of online, theoretical, case study and practical experience before taking a final exam to attain the qualification. These additional qualifications broaden the scope of dental nursing work performed and level of qualifications attained.
In short, what does a dental nurse do? A great deal. They are the lynch pin holding a dental practice together.
For further reading on qualifications, entry requirements and careers in dentistry see the NHS careers website.
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