Healthcare careers have always been in demand, and dental nursing is no exception. Every dental clinic in the UK is required by law to have a dental nurse alongside a dentist during treatments. Nurses provide chairside support, assist with preparing the dental instruments and materials, and record patient details. It is worth noting that completing such a course is not easy, as you will be required to work in a clinic while also preparing for the exams. There are also practical assignments that must be completed, which adds additional workload.
This, however, does not stop people from starting a new career in dental nursing, as it gives them the ability to take the first step in dentistry and provide a rewarding experience, not to mention a great starting salary. Qualified dental nurses can expect to earn up to 35,000 GBP. The salary can be further increased by taking additional training, for example, in implant nursing or radiology.
The dental nursing course takes 12–18 months to complete. The course fee ranges from 1800 to 2500 GBP. During the course, students will cover all aspects of dentistry and will have to memorise an extensive syllabus to qualify as dental nurses. Some providers offer classroom-based courses, while others allow students to take the course online. Since the 2019 pandemic, the online option has become very popular as people can learn from home. Online learning is based on studying by yourself, joining the live Zoom lessons, and/or watching the recordings. The study material is normally accessible through an online student hub.
A great thing about this course is that you are required to complete your practical training by working in a dental clinic. This provides a very valuable hands-on experience on what is required from a dental nurse. Student trainee dental nurses also get paid while working in a clinic, and it’s usually a minimum wage. This allows students to cover some of the course costs and living expenses.
Securing a training placement
When applying for a trainee job, clinics will normally require a person to be enrolled in a dental nursing course. You do not need any academic qualifications to start or complete the course. However, the ability to clearly communicate and work as part of a team is desirable. A positive attitude and willingness to learn are also huge bonuses.
At the end of the course and after completing the Records of Experience (the practical assignments), students must take two exams: one on theory and one on practice. A theory exam is a combination of questions with multiple choice answers that students must answer within a 2-hour examination time. The questions are randomly selected and will cover the entire course syllabus.
The practical exam is slightly different, and students must login to an online chat app like Zoom with a webcam and microphone connected. During the exam, students are presented with randomly selected treatment scenarios and will have to explain verbally what dental instruments are required to perform that specific treatment. They may also be asked to provide oral hygiene advice to a patient. Both exams are taken online.