Life in a day of a dental nurse

As a trainee dental nurse you will often be one of the first members of the team to arrive at the practice. You soon learn that being organised and planning ahead are one of the biggest tools in our armoury and can make a significant difference to how smoothly your day runs. The early bird certainly catches the worm!

08.30 A quick change into your clinical uniform and time to put the kettle on.

08.35 As part of your in house dental nurse training you will have learned how to set up your surgery and the decontamination room/area. Your tasks are likely to include: switching on all lights and equipment, disinfecting all equipment and work surfaces, ensuring all instrumentation and lab work is ready for use, and making sure you have enough stock for the day. You will start setting up for the first patient making sure the correct instruments, equipment and lab work are set out ready for the clinician to use along with the patient’s clinical records. You will have ensured that the decontamination equipment is tested, in working order and is ready for use. (You will learn about cross infection control measures at length during your Diploma in Dental Nursing)

08.55 The clinical areas are set up, you have checked the emergency drugs and equipment are ready to be used if necessary and you’ve had a few swigs of coffee, it is time to see your first patient of the day. Throughout the day you are the master of all trades… let’s do this!

09.00 Greeting the patient from the waiting room, you may be able to tell if they are nervous about their visit and will be able to help put them at ease by, making eye contact, giving them your full attention and using your listening skills. Patients will confide in you about their dental and personal concerns. Building trust and rapport with patients will reduce their anxiety and build confidence in the dental nurse and team. As well as supporting your patients throughout the day you will work as a team with the clinician assisting in: recording contemporaneous patient records, making sure you and the patient and have appropriate personal protective equipment for each procedure, setting out the appropriate instruments, equipment and materials, monitoring and supporting the patient’s comfort and safety, developing radiographs, decontaminating instruments, lab work, equipment and work surfaces between each patient, disposing of hazardous and infectious waste, monitoring and recording decontamination processes. Dental Nurse courses will set out all national guidance to you and how it applies to your dental practice

10.45 It’s time for a very short break. A useful time to catch up on your decontamination. A dash to the loo and a few more swigs of coffee, a biscuit and we are back to work…

11.00 A denture fit for 74 year old Mr. Smith, you show him his brand new teeth in the mirror and he’s thrilled! He now has a brighter smile for his golden wedding anniversary! Next appointment….a lower left molar toot canal treatment… best put those x-rays up on the screen to see what the canals look like.


13.00 Ahhh.. Lunchtime. Time to catch up with the rest of team over a sandwich and compare mornings and the weekend’s events.


14.00 Mr Jones’ filling has fallen out whilst feeding his sheep this morning, the dentist jokes it was ‘bbaaaaadd timing’ (oh dear!) let’s patch him back up with some composite, orange eye shield at the ready.


15.30 Your next patient has broken down on the motorway and so won’t make their appointment, you have half an hour to catch up with some jobs, time to check for any stock which needs ordering.


17.15 The last patient leaves the surgery for the day, Miss Williams wishes she had that bridge fitted years ago now that she feels ten years younger with those straight front incisors. Time to close down the surgery, make sure you have disinfected the surfaces and equipment appropriately, decontaminated all of the instruments and aseptically stored them, disposed of all hazardous waste appropriately, stored all decontamination records, shut down all equipment in the decontamination area and completed all of the end of day tasks.

Another day in the life of a dental nurse, where no two days are the same, there is always something new to learn and every patient has a different story to tell. During the day you will have used your skills and knowledge in administration, clinical recordkeeping, being prepared for medical emergency, cross infection control, legal and ethical issues, time management, communication, teamwork….the list goes on dental nursing is diverse and variable role, nurse training can set you up with not only skills to become a great dental nurse, but invaluable skills which can be transferred to almost any career or personal setting.

Dental nurse….master of all trades?!