Dental nurses work primarily at dental practices but may also have positions at hospitals and clinics. During their time on the job, dental nurses must adhere to a number of procedural protocols and often work with complex and sometimes dangerous equipment. While their main function is to assist dentists and other medical professionals in performing dental surgeries and other procedures, dental nurses also have a number of duties that go beyond the chair-side setting.
According to Citylife Dental, prepping patients prior to dental exams and procedures includes ensuring that patients have received, completed and signed all necessary forms and paper work, as well as escorting patients from the waiting room to the operating room and back. Once patients take their seats in dental chairs, nurses attach a protective covering, such as a paper towel, over their clothes to catch drool and other particles.
Dental nurses scrape a patient's teeth with a periodontal curette to remove plaque, treat the teeth with fluoride and scrub the teeth with a motorised toothbrush. Dental nurses must also be familiar with using dental water hoses and suction tubes---the ones with the funnel-shaped ends---so that patients can rinse their mouths and spit during the cleaning.
According to My Job Search, assisting involves passing tools to the dentist and using suction tubes to keep saliva and blood out of the way. Nurses may also assist dentists by powering up and repositioning certain pieces of equipment, such as X-ray machines and adjustable dental lamps. At the end of procedures, nurses often clean the operating spaces and dispose of all leftover hazardous waste materials, such as used syringe needles.
Dentists and dental nurses utilise tools and equipment that go in to the mouths of patients, where they are often contaminated with bacteria and other germs. According to NHS Careers, most practices require that nurses sanitise these items, such as forceps, excavators and dental drills, as part of their daily procedures. In addition to scrubbing equipment with antibacterial solutions, the sterilising process also often involves placing items in specialised sterilisation or decontamination chambers. Autoclaves are one of the most common varieties and utilise highly pressurised steam to destroy contaminants.