How do I become a dental nurse?

9 February 2021

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What is the job role of a dental nurse?

What exactly does a dental nurse do: A dental nurse is an essential part of the dental team, helping to ensure that the patient is well cared for. As a dental nurse it is important to be friendly, calm and efficient and have a reassuring and welcoming manner.
A dental nurse works closely with the dentist, providing assistance throughout a patient’s visit. Assisting the dentist encompasses a wide range of procedures from preparing the various materials required and ensuring the proper instruments and equipment are available, to cleaning and sterilising the used instruments. Additional duties may include helping the dentist to record information about the patient’s oral health, processing radiographs and stock control.
In general dental practice, a dental nurse’s duties may also including helping at reception – making appointments, getting involved in the administration of the practice and collecting money. The roles that are undertaken vary depending upon the individual practice and interests of the nurse.

  • Friendly
  • Assist Dentist
  • Assist with procedures
  • Prepares Instruments
  • Ensures everything in sterilised
  • Record Information on Patient
  • May include reception duties
  • Roles may vary in different practices
  • Generally speaking, dental nurses must possess the same attributes as any other nurses, though depending on the specific practice they may also require administrative skills.
  • Good organisational skills to remain focussed on several tasks at once
  • Compassion and sensitivity to patients’ conditions and an understanding of their apprehensions
  •  The ability to communicate with dentists, suppliers and patients
  • Administrative skills – booking appointments and collecting payments
  • Alertness to what the dentist requires of you during surgery
  • Commitment to developing your education and skills
  • Ability to develop friendly relationships with patients while remaining objective and professional
  • Enthusiasm for promoting dental hygiene
  • Mental and physical endurance to assist the dentist in performing intricate surgery for extended periods of time

Who can be a dental nurse?

Well anyone can be a dental nurse! As long as they have a good attitude, are willing to learn and can adapt easily. In addition to being adaptable, flexible, and reassuring, being able to work as part of a team is essential. This is particularly important in dental surgery, which is often stressful and where the key is to be able to work quickly and calmly while coping with multiple changes of plan often with little or no notice.


A dental nurse is often in a better position to recognise if a patient is particularly nervous and to put a patient at ease. Patients usually find dental nurses easier to confide in about any difficulties they are experiencing, which may be important for the dentist to know, especially if it affects their dental treatment. In this way, a dental nurse can improve communication between the dentist and patient.


Some assisting work can be very precise and a high degree of manual dexterity is a valuable trait.
A dental nurse also needs to be highly organised and ensure that essential equipment and materials are easily accessible during any dental surgical procedure.

Irish Dental Jobs Training Academy coming soon this 2021 – the program will be a short program that will allow those with little or experience to train and be certified to work in a medical environment as a dental nurse. To be added to our contact list please register above!

Dental Nurse Training: Where can I train to be a dental nurse?

Dental nurses must either hold a recognised qualification and be registered with the General Dental Council or be working towards registration on an approved training course. The National Certificate in Dental Nursing is a recognised qualification which is accredited by the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses. This certificate can be obtained by working in a dental practice while undertaking part-time studies to prepare for the qualification.

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Colleges to train as a dental nurse in Ireland:

There are two University programmes available in Ireland to train as a Dental Nurse:

Dublin Dental School & Hospital - Diploma in Dental Nursing 

  • Duration: Full time 2 Years
  • Location: Dublin Dental School & Hospital 
  • Description: Practical experience is gained within the Dublin Dental School & Hospital & external institutions, arranged by course tutor.
  • This course is divided into practical and academic (modular) components. Both the formal academic teaching and the practical clinical experience are gained at the Dublin Dental School and Hospital on Trinity College’s campus. During the Diploma in Dental Nursing Day Programme students will spend time on external placements in a health-service executive dental clinic and in general dental practices throughout the Dublin area. The programme consists of lectures, tutorials, demonstrations and practical sessions. You will be assessed on a continuous basis regarding suitability and application of theory to practice. By the end of the course, you will have developed appropriate skills in patient and team management.
  • This course is aimed at students wishing to attend full time education. This programmes does not require students to have prior experience or employment history in Dental Nursing.
  • To Apply: Check out the TCD Prospectus for entry requirements. School leavers should apply through the CAO system. Mature students (over 23 years) must apply through the CAO and directly to the Admissions Office in Trinity College 
·National Dental Nurse Training Programme of Ireland - Certificate of Dental Nursing
  • (This Certificate is awarded by Dublin Dental School & Hospital, or Cork Dental School and Hospital.) 
  • Duration: 1 Year (Employed experience combined with evening lectures)
  • Location:  Dublin Dental School & Hospital, Cork University Dental School & Hospital & regional centres located in Carlow, Galway, Tralee and Waterford.
  • Description: Practical experience gained during candidate’s employment, supervised by employing practitioner.
  • Aimed at students employed as Dental Nurses, who wish to attend evening training to gain a formal Dental Nursing qualification. Employing practitioners must support students wishing to enter this programme, as they are essential in the delivery of the practical training.
  • Students are required to be in employment as a dental nurse throughout the duration of the programme.
  • Students must have regular computer and internet access (broadband connection is desirable).
  • To Apply: Further information for prospective students is available on the National Dental Nurse Training Programme of Ireland's website.
  • School leavers are required to have a completed a leaving certificate with a minimum 5 subjects at a minimum of D3 level. Mature students – over the age of 23 are considered on application and interview basis. (Dentist.ie)

Dental Hospital Dental Nurse Training New Program:

16 month training programme offers an opportunity to those currently employed as trainee dental nurses to achieve a formal award. Successful completion of this programme, commencing September 2020, will lead to a Diploma in Dental Nursing (Trinity College Dublin) and will permit entry onto the Voluntary Dental Council Register for Dental Nurses in Ireland.

This programme is modular in design and delivery will be supported by video-conferencing and distance learning methods.  The programme will be offered in Dublin, Cork and Galway (regional centres will be available pending the required number of students applying for these centres). We offer distance learning for geographically remote students (outside of Dublin, Cork and Galway areas).

For the Dublin and Galway centres:

Application forms and course outline can be obtained from https://www.dentalhospital.ie/education/undergraduate-programmes/dental-nursing/application-form

All parts of the application process must be completed by Friday 13th March 2020.

Courses vary in becoming a dental nurse, some can be 2 years long. See some information below!

  • Marino CFE are running an online information session on Wednesday 24th February from 4.00-5.00 pm. If you are interested in attending please register your interest.
  • Many other courses will be closing soon for applications so get them in this month!

Is dental nursing hard?

If you are inexperienced in dental nursing, there are some practices who are willing to train you in dental nursing. If you have the right attitude, willing to learn and come into work with a smile on your face everyday, we at Irish Dental Jobs always say the rest will follow!

How much does a dental nurse earn?

We will always find the right person for each individual practice, The dental profession is a very small industry and I am of the mind that we should regulate salaries in Ireland or at least have one central place to go to as a guideline as to what kind of salaries are being offered in a current year.  You should not be contacting the IDNA, the IDHA or the IDA for this kind of information.  The only people you should be speaking to is Irish Dental Jobs. We talk to dental professionals all day every day and this is how we gather our information to share with the dental profession.

Check out our salary guide 2020 for all dental nursing salaries!

Download Now

How long does it take to become a dental nurse?

This, of course, depends on the route you take and what your existing commitments are.

Working part time as a trainee dental nurse will take you longer to qualify than if you worked full time. If you are full time it can take between 18 and 24 months to complete the course.

While this may seem like a long time, this approach allows you to make a living while you learn. Plus, you’ll get a pay rise at the end of the process along with your diploma.

If you opt for gaining your qualification through dedicated study then the duration of your studies will vary.

Learning through a bricks and mortar college or university means you will be restricted to their timetable. That means waiting until the start of term rather than when you’re ready. So the course duration is one year plus however many months you need to wait for the course to commence.

The advantage of studying this way is there is a clear beginning and end of your studies. And, assuming you’ve done well enough, you get a qualification at the end.

The third option is studying for your qualification online. This approach gives you complete autonomy and flexibility to study in a way that suits you.

You can start the same day you enrol (no waiting until September) and learn as quickly as you want. So, while the course has a 2-year time limit, most students can complete the course in 9 months or less.

This gives you the best return on time and investment as it will allow you to get into new role relatively quickly.

A word of warning – whichever route you take, DC registration requires passing an exam and completing two years of surgery experience.

Wherever you are on your dental nursing journey, Irish Dental Jobs are here to help! We will find you the right role that matches your expertise!

Register now and we will do our very best to accommodate you!

 

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