To become a qualified dental nurse there are two possible routes available to take. Dental nurses can either take the National Certificate for Dental Nurses examination or take an NVQ National Vocational Qualifiacation course resulting in a recognised qualification. Both courses vary in the time they take complete, but those wishing to take the National Certificate should be aware that the certificate can’t be awarded unless candidates have at least two years full time chairside experience.
There are no formal qualifications required in order to complete a course which results in a recognised dental nursing qualification, but there are certain subjects, Biology, Chemistry, English and IT that would be advantageous for candidates to have a good understanding of as they are relevant to the work they do.
The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) have, up until recently, been solely responsible for the examination taken in order to qualify as a dental nurse. The National Certificate was, for many years, the only course available for dental nurses to take in order to qualify, however, since registration and other professional obligations e.g. CPD have become compulsory, the alternative route – NVQ has become available.
Courses are held at dental hospitals, technical colleges, or at various venues around the U.K such as health centres if they are privately run courses. For details about courses run locally to you, it is best to contact either NEBDN – www.nebdn.org or the British Association of Dental Nurses – www.badn.org.uk for those interested in the National Certificate, and for the NVQ contact www.city-and-guilds.co.uk .
Like many dental care professionals it is essential for dental nurses to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, this involves an initial blood test, followed by a series of vaccination injections and another blood test to ensure the vaccination has worked. You can sometimes need a ‘booster’ injection, but this is becoming less and less common. As with all vaccinations, dental nurses must contact their own GP to arrange for this to be done.
If you are working in a dental hospital you will be required to provide a detailed personal medical history.
On the course
The National Certificate usually takes approximately eighteen months to complete as students usually attend college for either one full or half day a week.
Topics covered on the course include, anatomy and physiology, anatomy of a tooth, medical emergencies, dental materials and instruments, dental treatments – fillings, crowns and bridges, dentures, implants, infection control and sterilisation, health and safety, patient management, and much more.
National Certificate exams take a full day and are structured, they consist of;
- Part A involves multiple choices, labelling a diagram and short answer questions related to diagrams, more short answer questions and charting
- Part B involves the writing of four essays (choose four of five specific questions)
- Spotter – twenty items to be correctly identified
- Part A involves mixing of a dental material
- Part B involves ten selected items which students must describe the function of
- Oral (viva) involves verbal question and answer session with examiner
A new requirement for those taking the National Certificate exam is a record of experience, which must be completed before candidates are given entry to the exam; it is designed for dental nurses to provide evidence of practical abilities within their working role. This is split into five sections and a case study, and is done while on a training course. Course providers will give information and advice for dental nurses who must complete a record of experience.
Useful books for those taking the National Certificate include the ‘Levisons Text book for dental nurses’ (most recent edition), and Question and Answers for dental nurses’ by Carole Hollins.
The NVQ taken by dental nurses is called NVQ level 3 oral health care: dental nursing. Basic knowledge is pretty much the same as for the National certificate but rather than purely sitting a formal exam, candidates are assessed and tested by local assessors and witnesses in the dental nurse’s work place, it can be a less stressful approach for dental nurses to take. The course is broken down into modules and candidates keep a record of their progress for their assessors to sign off and approve. It can be completed at candidates own pace but there is still an exam to sit, although it is much less demanding than the exam for those taking the National Certificate.
The NVQ exam consists of three sections;
- Multiple choice and short answers
- Medical history questions
Both exams are marked by NEBDN examiners. A useful textbook for those taking the NVQ is by Carole Hollins and is titled ‘NVQ’s for dental nurses’. Textbooks can be bought by clicking on links on this website.