Dentists employ dental nurses to make dental procedures easier to finish and to make dental patients feel more comfortable. Dental nurses have many of the same duties as dental hygienists, but unlike dental hygienists, dental nurses typically have a nursing qualification and can cover a variety of medical procedures that are related to dentistry, but which don't necessarily involve the mouth, such as taking blood.
X-rays and imaging
Dental nurses take X-rays for the dentist so that the dentist can tell what other procedures might be necessary. As technology improves, nurses also use other equipment to take images of the mouth, gums and teeth. These technologies typically create instant digital images, so they are safer for dental nurses than X-rays.
Examinations and procedure preparation
Dental nurses often perform the initial examination of a patient's teeth and gums, combining this exam with the images and X-rays the nurse has taken to screen patients for the dentist. Dental nurses then may perform tests and lab work to make sure that the patient is able to undergo procedures. Dental nurses tell the patient what will be done during the procedure, help the patient into any protective gear that might be needed, such as glasses to protect them from lasers and a sheet to cover clothing -- and make sure the patient is comfortable. Depending on the nurse's qualifications, a dental nurse may administer anaesthesia or other medications.
Once the nurse has prepared the dental patient for his procedure, she helps the dentist complete the procedure by handing the dentist instruments or performing tasks like suctioning fluid from the mouth. The dental nurse also may purposely distract patients from what the dentist is doing and provide a calming presence in the room so that the patient doesn't become frightened or nervous. This is especially important for dental nurses who work with paediatric dentists.
Health and safety
Dental nurses make sure that the dental facility is clean at all times. They sanitise procedure areas and sterilise any equipment that the dentist has used. They also dispose of waste according to health and safety regulations.
Maintenance and inventory
Dental nurses are responsible for making sure that all the equipment that the dentist needs is in working order. They report any repair needed to the dentist or other administrators. They also make sure that the dental practice has a ready supply of medications.
According to NHS Careers, dental nurses perform administrative/receptionist tasks such as scheduling appointments and answering phones. They greet patients and escort them as needed through the dental practice. They may also take notes for the dentist during procedures and then transfer these to patient records.
- kzenon/iStock/Getty Images