“Nursing” doesn’t just apply to registered nurses and nurse practitioners- dental nurse training courses are designed to turn out medical staff that are equipped to work in a dentist’s or oral surgeon’s office. These settings provide a completely different set of challenges than a regular doctor’s office or ER visit. As a result, the educational requirements and licensing procedures are a bit different than they are for a typical nurse.
For example, in a clinical setting, a dental nurse must be able to:
Prepare and mix materials like amalgam and composite fillings.
Maintain an aseptic atmosphere during oral surgery.
Support the dentist or oral surgeon during patient visits.
Monitor patients during their dental procedures.
Take and process dental x-rays.
Advise patients about subjects like aftercare following a dental procedure.
Dental nurse training courses are primarily confined to the U.K., which has governing bodies that oversee the training and certification requirements for these nurses. In the U.S., the duties typically handled by a dental nurse are relegated to a “dental assistant,” which does not have the same training and certification requirements as their U.K. counterpart.
Dental Nurse Scope of Practice
In many instances, the difference between a dental nurse and a dental assistant is a semantic one. The exact scope of practice for a dental nurse or dental assistant is set by a state or country’s dental governing body. So, the things that U.S. dental assistants are allowed to do will vary from state to state, and U.K. dental nurses aren’t always able to perform the same duties as U.S. dental assistants.
In no case are dental nurses or assistants ever allowed to perform the duties of an actual dentist, even with a licensed dentist’s consent and oversight. Doing so can result in severe disciplinary action, including being barred from working as a dental nurse or assistant from that point forward. Avoiding this isn’t as easy as it sounds- in some places, things like tooth whitening and temporary crown making must be performed by a dentist. In others, they can legally be done by dental nurses or assistants. In every case, it’s important for dental staff to fully understand all of the regulations pertaining to what duties they are and are not allowed to perform.
Dental Nurse Training Courses and Certification Requirements
If you want to work as a dental nurse in the U.K., then dental nurse training courses are a requirement. Since 2008, all dental nurses must have a certificate from the National Examining Board of Dental Nurses, Certificate of Proficiency in dental nursing, course completion certificate for a one year dental nurse training program, and a National Vocational Qualification/Scottish Vocational Qualification Level three in oral healthcare. There are also additional certificates offered by the National Examining Board of Dental Nurses in subjects like “twilight” anesthesia and dental radiography, for dental nurses who assist oral surgeons and endodontists. In some countries in the U.K., such as Ireland, enrollment in the country’s Dental Council may be beneficial, but not mandatory.
If you want to work as a dental assistant in the U.S., you may or may not require a degree. This depends entirely on your state’s regulations. Dental nursing certifications from the U.K. are usually not sufficient to allow someone to work as a Certified Dental Assistant stateside. To become a Certified Dental Assistant, you must graduate from a two year dental assistant training program (or have two years of on-the-job experience), and pass a certification exam given by the Dental Assisting National Board.
Though both dental nurses and dental assistants provide the same kinds of support to dentists, they are treated differently in their countries of origin. If you’re a U.K. student working to become a dental nurse, then enrollment in dental nurse training courses is necessary. In the U.S., you may find that you’re able to receive in-house dental assistant training, and go on to become a Certified Dental Assistant based on your experience. In either case, your learning experiences will guarantee you a challenging, lucrative career anywhere in your homeland.