Dental Nursing is a Career in the United Kingdom

A career in healthcare has always been in demand, but it usually comes with many years of learning and training. What if you could get into the healthcare field within 1 year?

Such an option is available via a dental nursing course.

In the UK, every dental clinic is required by law to have a dental nurse working alongside a dentist. Currently, there are thousands of dental clinics in London alone, with most of them having 3 or more dentists, meaning there are tens of thousands of dental nurse job vacancies, not to mention the rest of the UK. Job specifications for nurses normally include providing chairside support, preparing dental materials and instruments, and updating patient details.

Sometimes they will be required to cover the reception, meet the patients, and manage the bookings, which is useful to learn as well. They will also be required to work in a decontamination room ensuring all instruments are sterilized before each treatment. The dental nurse course is not an easy one, and students must cover a lot of learning material whilst working in a dental clinic and completing the practical assignments.

NEBDN National Diploma in Dental Nursing


The NEBDN qualification is widely recognized in the UK, among other dental nursing awarding bodies. The national diploma course takes a minimum of 12 months to complete. During the course, students are required to learn all aspects of dentistry, which consist of 11 modules.

These modules are closely adapted along the General Dental Council (GDC) standards and learning outcomes to ensure students receive the highest teaching standard. Students can choose to study online or in classrooms.

Lately, online learning has become the most popular choice, as it provides flexibility and saves time. There are over one hundred course providers in the UK, so choosing one should be based on other students’ reviews. Doing your own research is important, as this will help you choose the right provider.

The NEBDN Syllabus

  • The professionalism of the dental nurse. Aims: To discuss the roles and responsibilities of a dental nurse. Their professional responsibility allows dental nurses to understand the importance of following professional, legislative, ethical, and local policies.
  • Health and Safety. Aims: To recognize risks and hazards in the dental workplace in line with current regulations and legislative frameworks and national government policies.
  • Dealing with Medical Emergencies. Aims: To identify and provide support in emergency situations and understand the types of medical emergencies.
  • General, Dental, and Regional Anatomy. Aims: To learn and describe different aspects of general, dental, and regional anatomy and how it relates to patient’s treatment requirements.
  • Oral Disease. Aims: To get basic knowledge and understanding of common oral diseases.
  • Prevention of Oral Disease. Aims: To understand how oral diseases can be prevented and to have the ability to provide hygienic advice. Recognizing the role of clinical guidelines in the delivery of oral health care
  • Assessment. Aims: To recognize and support the dentist during an oral health assessment. Ability to assist the dentist during the taking and processing of dental images.
  • Restorative Dentistry. Aims: To demonstrate the procedures involved when preparing the dental environment and support the patients and the dentist during restorative dental treatments.
  • Child Dental Health. Aims: To understand how children’s oral health is different from that of adult one. To learn various instruments used in orthodontic treatments and the different stages in cavity preparation for primary teeth.
  • Minor Oral Surgery. Aims: To learn about extraction treatments and the instruments involved. The methods of protecting and retracting the soft tissues. How to use and maintain an aspirator.
  • Pain and Anxiety Control. Aims: To learn about possible reasons for the patient’s anxiety and how to control them. Understanding different types of sedatives used in dentistry and why each of them is very important for a specific patient.

What is expected of a dental nurse?


Typically, a dental nurse should possess the following qualities:

  • Ability to work well in a team
  • Be able to learn new things quickly
  • Can manage stress and remain calm in stressful situations
  • A good understanding of medicine and general dentistry
  • Positive can-do attitude
  • Good verbal communication and language skills
  • To have basic knowledge of IT equipment and software

Trainee dental nurses

During the course, students are required to work in a dental clinic, as this will help them learn the practical side of the job as well as complete the practical assignments. The dentist who oversees the trainee dental nurse is the person who trains them and signs their RoE (Records of Experience).

Trainees can work part-time or full-time with a minimum of 16 hours per week. They are paid wages just like any other employee, and this helps to cover some of the course fees. Students don’t need any qualifications to get a job as a trainee dental nurse, however, good spoken language skills and the ability to work in a team are important.



To get the qualification, students must pass two exams. A theory exam is a 2-hour test where students are required to answer a number of questions with multiple-choice answers. On the practical exam (or OSCE exam), students are given a dental treatment scenario where they need to explain, in their own words, what dental instruments are required, and what the procedures are.

Both dental nurse exams have been taken online since 2020. This is very convenient, as it takes the stress off the students because they can be in an environment where they can feel relaxed, for example, their home.

Career progression

Qualifying as a dental nurse is just the start of your career. Afterward, you might want to progress, and there are certainly some options to choose from. Students can choose to take an up-skilling, higher-level course such as fluoride varnish application, a radiography course, implant nursing, or oral hygiene.

Some people also explore slightly different paths by becoming team leaders, head dental nurses, or practice managers. The most ambitious students who fall in love with dentistry can seek further education and take a university degree to become a dental therapist or a dental hygienist.