Dental nurse


Career outlook for dental nurse

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

Dental nurses look after people and make them comfortable when they visit the dentist. You’d assist the dentist as they give treatments and help with other aspects of patient care.

Your patients might be there for a simple check-up or having advanced specialist treatment.

You’d need to be calm and reassuring to help patients who are nervous relax. You’d try to make sure they're comfortable at all times.

What you might do:

  • tidy, sterilise and prepare the dental surgery
  • sterilise instruments
  • pass instruments to the dentist, therapist or hygienist
  • remove water and saliva from the patient’s mouth during treatment
  • prepare materials, for example, to make fillings
  • help the dentist record information about each patient
  • check the stocks of dental materials

Some dental practices offer facial aesthetics work, also known as anti-wrinkle treatments. These are non surgical cosmetic treatments, for example Botox injections or lip fillers. A trained medical practitioner, such as a dentist, would carry these out and you could assist them in this work.

At a general dental practice, you may also help at the reception area, especially during busy periods.

This would involve booking appointments, taking payments for treatment, and greeting patients.

You could work for the National Health Service (NHS) or in the private sector. You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the dental nurse page on the NHS Scotland Careers website.

Working conditions


You would normally work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may work outside of these hours if the practice you work for opens during the evening. Part-time work is sometimes available.


You would wear a uniform and surgical gloves for protection. Safety glasses and a mask are also used to reduce the risk of cross-infection.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Positive attitude
  • Cooperating
  • Supporting
  • Reading
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Empathising
  • Attention to detail
  • Taking responsibility

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

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You'd need a dental nursing qualification. This could be a Higher National Diploma (HND) or work-based qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Dental Nursing.

To enter a dental nursing course, you'd likely need 3 to 4 National 4 or 5 qualifications, including English and a science subject.

Entry requirements will vary for jobs and Modern Apprenticeships. Some employers will need qualifications at SCQF level 4 or 5.

Useful subjects

  • maths
  • English
  • at least one science subject

You will also need

To pass a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Disclosure check.

Once in the job you can gain a relevant qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Dental Nursing.

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate understanding of health, wellbeing and care such as:

  • Health and Social Care
  • SQA Wellbeing Award