- practical skills
- a calm, confident and reassuring manner
- the ability to relate well to people, including children and those with special needs
- organisational skills
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day tasks may include:
- passing instruments to the dentist or hygienist
- removing water and saliva from the patient’s mouth during treatment
- preparing materials to make fillings
- making sure that the patient is relaxed and comfortable at all times
- keeping the surgery tidy and sterile
- sterilising instruments
- helping record information about each patient
You may also help at the reception area, booking appointments, taking payments for treatment and greeting and reassuring patients.
You may work at a general dental practice, a hospital, with the community dental service or in a university. You could also work in the armed forces.
Starter: £18,000 to £22,000
Experienced: £22,000 to £29,000 (dental nurse specialist)
Pay rates can vary from Minimum wage up to £12.50 per hour depending on the location and the practice itself.
These figures are a guide.
Working hours, patterns and environment
You’ll usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and sometimes until 8pm if the practice opens during the evening.
If you work in a hospital’s dental department you may be on call at nights and weekends for emergencies.
You’ll wear a uniform and protective clothing such as surgical gloves, safety glasses and a mask.
You’ll be standing for most of the day.
Career path and progression
With experience you may be able to move into jobs like team manager, team leader or dental practice manager.
With further training you could become a dental therapist, helping a dentist carry out the more routine dentistry work. You could also become a dental hygienist, helping people to look after their teeth and gums, or a Dental Radiographer who takes and processes radio-graphs of the jaw and teeth.
You might even decide to train as an orthodontic therapist helping dentists to improve the look and position of a patient’s teeth.
Health Careers has information on careers in all areas of the dental team.