Dental nurses work as part of a dental team in a variety of clinical and non clinical settings. The term Dental nurse has a defined meaning within the UK. From 30 July 2008, all Dental nurses in the UK must be registered with the General Dental Council to continue working legally.
Dental nurses are responsible for ensuring the Dentist or Oral Surgeon's operating list runs smoothly during the course of a clinical session. This can include, but is not limited to:
Prepare and maintain the clinical environment
Carry out Infection Control Measures compliant with Department of Health's HTM 01-05 Decontamination in Primary Dental Care settings
Record clinical charting during routine dental examinations
Prepare, mix and handle dental materials e.g. Amalgam, Alginate etc.
Provide chairside support during clinical sessions
Maintain and records patients records
Prepare materials and equipment for dental radiography
Process dental radiographs
Monitor and reassure patients undergoing dental treatment
Provide advice to patients and refer clinical questions to Dental Surgeons
Assist and support clinical team members in the event of a medical emergency
Assist with reception and administration tasks e.g. booking appointments and taking payments
Assist with dealing with complaints and referring them to a Dental Surgeon / Practice Manager
If you're working as a dental nurse or technician, you have to be registered or in training - whatever your job title, the General Dental Council (UK) confirms. And experience is no longer enough.
The titles "dental nurse", "dental surgery assistant", "dental technician" and "dental technologist" are protected by law. So if you're not registered with the GDC and you use one of these titles, or any other title which misleadingly implies that you are, you risk prosecution in a criminal court.
But that doesn't mean that an unregistered person can just use a different job title and continue to do the work of a dental nurse or dental technician - at least, not without risking the registration of whoever is employing them.
Unregistered dental nurses and dental technicians are effectively outlawed by GDC standards which make it clear that registrants - professionals who are literally signed up to the high standards set in the UK for their profession - must employ and work with appropriately registered people.
If a registered dentist or dental technician employs someone to work as a dental nurse or dental technician they have a duty to ensure that that person is registered or in training. If they don't, they risk losing their own registration.