A career in Dental Nursing

Dental equipment

Tales from the dentist’s surgery

I’m Natalie and by trade I’m a dental nurse. Dentistry is all I know and all I’ve ever done; anything before that is just meaningless mush now. If you ask me about art, literature or music, I’ll probably just smile and play along but dentistry has become a large part of my life now. Dental nursing isn’t just about having the ability to mix up a filling in under ten seconds – although it does feel like quite an achievement – it’s also about putting your patient first in your surgery. You can often form bonds with the patients when you see them every six months, they begin to trust you, then maybe they’ll bring a friend or a family member with them and you see the whole network expand.

When you start training to be a dental nurse, you just don’t realise how much it takes over your life. No one tells you that you’re going to become a community figure. Sometimes people will wave and smile at me in the street whereas others will give me a look of terror and flee immediately, whether I recognise them or not. The most awkward was when a young child recognised me outside work then ran up to me, jumped on me and gave me a hug. The child’s mother didn’t recognise me at first but soon lightened up when I explained who I was. We laughed it off and I wasn’t arrested!

I started dental nursing 4 years ago, when I found the opportunity by chance. I saw a dental nurse apprenticeship advertised online, I thought “that would be such an easy job!” I quickly learnt otherwise. As a dental nurse, the dentist you work with will dote on you completely; you need to make sure that he has everything he needs to do the treatment. If the dentist has to move in the slightest from his seat, or even extend his arm to pick up an instrument, then you’re not doing your job correctly.


There’s a precise way of passing the instruments to the dentist where the instruments are put in the dentists hand in the direction that he needs to use them. The problem with this is that it then extends into your life outside of work – you’ll find I’ve pointed the handle of your cup towards you or that I’m passing you a knife in the correct position to cut up your steak. I’ll probably even cut up the steak for you if you look at me sternly enough.

Natalie, Dental Nurse, 23 form Halesowen.

Natalie, Dental Nurse, 23 from Halesowen.

Another way that dentistry sneaks up into outside life is when you meet new people. Imagine you’ve just met someone special, maybe you hope that they’ll become a good friend or even a lover one day, but then they ask that dreaded question. Six words, eighteen letters: “what do you do for work?” Now, I’m proud of my job, but as soon as they utter those exact words, you instantly know where your next ten minutes of conversation is going. They’re about to tell you a gruesome story about how their last dentist was a better butcher than Vic next door and how they haven’t seen a dentist since. If you’re lucky then they might even whimper the final words of “I’ve had a bit of toothache recently, maybe I’ll book in at your place.” All you can do after that is politely excuse yourself to stop yourself thinking about all that sugar in the alcopop they’re drinking.

Dental nursing isn’t just a job – it’s a career and a way of life. You’re a medical professional and you need to stay on top of your game to keep your skills up to scratch. The main reason I have to smile is knowing that I’m helping other people to maintain their smile. Every single day is different from the last, but every day ends with a sense of fulfilment that I’ve done a good job. I couldn’t be happier with my career.

17 Responses to “A career in Dental Nursing”

  1. Wendy

    I have been a Dental nurse for 32 years!!! And I’m still working in Harley street been with the same practice for 18 years!! I love my job and as you say my patients know me so well and trust me. It’s a great job

  2. Tash

    This is such a great story, I’ve just started as a dental nurse and being put on the training and I’m loving it. Before this I was a beautician so it’s a pretty different career from that but strangely really really enjoy it!

  3. Trish

    I’ve been a dental nurse for 19 years and have worked my way up to practice manager. I’m still eager to learn and have 3 post qualifications and working towards my fourth.

  4. kajal

    Thats a fantastic story.. We are looking for a nurse to join our growing team. Someone like you with ambition and spark.. anyone interested then email me on enquiries@teethuk.com we are a fully private practice located in Lincolnshire.

    • Sophie

      Ive been a dental nurse for 3 years and ive loved it ever since

  5. Sharon

    Been dental nursing for 27 years,since I left school,it’s all I ever wanted to after having Ortho when I was 12.
    Work in London same surgery for 14 yrs
    High point was nursing at London 2012 Paralympics
    Dental nursing is awesome.

  6. Sam

    Sounds about right. Been a dental nurse for 9 an a half years, been in orthodontics for the last 2 an a half years, qualified as a radiographer 2 years ago and I love it. Wanted to be a veterinary nurse but fell into dental nursing. Wouldn’t do anything else now tho, its my life. Keep up the good work

  7. Janet Stevenson

    I have been a Dental Nurse for 30 years and wouldn’t change it for the world

    • Farah

      I was a dental nurse from 1986- 1990. Before leaving school I was forced to go on dental course although I wanted ti do nursery nursing, however I did enjoy working as a dental nurse. I do want to go back but not sure how to.

      • ewelina

        I think you have to start dental nursing course at some at the dental colleges.I done it in 2012 it was just one year of hard studies I have my national English is not my firs language but if someone wants something strongly averything is possible you can do it.good luck

  8. Lisa Joned

    I’ve been a dental nurse for just over 7 years and I totally love it, no two days are the same, the patients are lovely and I have a fab boss to work for, it was a great career move for me from estate agency, who knows one day I may train to be a practice manager. :))

  9. Becky

    I have been a dental nurse now for 6 years as I love my job, my fiancée used to think that I just “used the sucky thing” and mixed fillings ! It’s all about multi tasking, forming trusting relationships and sometimes having “psychic abilities”. NHS paperwork is the only non enjoyable part of my job.
    You do find yourself taking work home, going to the bathroom at your friends and discussing why there toothpaste choice isn’t the best or asking how often they change their brushes! We are a forgotten profession really people don’t realise the training and CPD involved. They don’t realise we are registered with the GDC like hygienists and dentists.
    I’m passionate about my job, my patients and the practice I work for we are 99% NHS and proud!

  10. Sonia Boydell

    I’m a dental nurse have been working in profession for about 8 years but only qualified for 3 yrs! I love my job and the dentists I work alongside! I did the national certificate and it was hard whilst I was one of the last to do it as the changes to the course etc there were other girls doing the nvq how I wish I was doing that, they seemed to have it easy and exam not so intense, however I stuck to it and am proud to wear my badge!! Dental nurses aren’t just skivvies they are hard working nurses!!!!

  11. Leah

    Great story Natalie…i like your humour. You made me laugh..

    I love my job.been in dentistry for 6years now and i love it to bits!!

    Its kinda weird how say you met someone for the first time and your mind is automatically telling you what crowns dentures or any prosthetics that person is wearing by just saying “hi” or how you start saying in your mind what type of treatment that person NEEDS lol

    My family and friends thinks im a bit weird but they now understands me hahahaha

  12. Andrea Ward

    I’ve been a dental nurse for nine years & dentistry opened my mind to surgical procedures and implantology. Its this profession that has inspired me to train as a Adult Nurse with a vision of working in theatre… A massive thank you to dentistry, it has been the building blocks of a fantastic career.

  13. stacey willett

    Hey im a trainee dental nurse on level 3 dental nursing nvq, and qualify in december, lookin for a job around the west midlands area if any one can help. Thank you stacey.


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