Dental nurse

Dental nurses help dentists to care for their patients, and may also carry out reception work and other tasks.

Annual Salary

£17,000 to £28,500

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40

Future employment

There will be 8% more Dental nurse jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

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.


You can study for a Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing.

You may be able to study full-time, or do 1 or 2 days a week in college and work in a surgery for the rest of the time.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course


You can take an advanced apprenticeship in dental nursing.

You'll need to be working in a dental surgery to do an apprenticeship.

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship

Other Routes

A common route is to start with a dental practice as a trainee and study for a dental nursing qualification on the job.

Once qualified, you’ll need to register with the General Dental Council.

You'll need to pass enhanced background checks.

You can join The British Association of Dental Nurses for professional development training.

£17,000 to £28,500

Starter salary: £17,000 to £19,750

Experienced salary: £22,000 to £28,500 (dental nurse specialist)

Pay rates are roughly the same in the NHS and private practice.

These figures are a guide.

37 to 40

You'll usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and sometimes evenings 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.

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.

You might 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.

You can get more details about dental nursing from Health Careers.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • practical skills
  • a calm, confident and reassuring manner
  • the ability to relate well to people, including children and those with special needs
  • organisational skills
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