There are a number of facts about dental nursing that you should be aware of before you decide whether or not a career in this line of work is for you. It is important to note that many nurses who enter this career eventually end up in far advanced positions by becoming dentists or oral hygienists, although this does require further education and training. Even without an intention to advance through the ranks, it is still a very good career to pursue as there are employment opportunities available in a variety of different settings, all of which you will be eligible to apply for.
How To Become A Dental Nurse
If you are still in high school but are already thinking about your future (which is a very sensible thing to do), the following subjects will help you in a career aimed at dental nursing:
- Health and office practices
It is very important to remember that a high school diploma is a necessary requirement for pursuing a career as a dental nurse. However, as compared to a number of other career options in healthcare that you may be considering, this is one of the fields where very little training is required. There are optional education courses that you could choose to enroll in to boost your qualifications in this area, but even these will not take a great deal of your time to complete in comparison to the degrees needed for a number of other health care professions and careers in similar fields to dentistry.
Different states may have different requirements when it comes to the employment and registration of dental nurses. It is therefore essential that you research the requirements in your particular state. In addition there may be slight variations in requirements from city to city within the same state. Bearing this in mind you may need to do even more specific research into the requirements expected of you. Requirements may include taking an exam at state or national level in order to become registered as a dental nurse. There are dental nursing programs that you can enroll in that will adequately prepare you for any tests that you may be asked to take.
Although it is possible to become a dental nurse or dental assistant without any education other than a high school diploma, it is still highly recommended that you do so as it is practically impossible to find employment in the field without training of some description. There are a number of vocational and technical schools that offer such programs, and, because dentists are looking for aides that have more skills and experience than in the past, these are the programs that you should look into. A few things should probably be kept in mind at this stage:
- You should only consider those programs that have accreditation from the American Dental Association.
- Programs can vary length as technical schools usually offer a one-year certificate program, and community colleges offer a two-year program leading to an associates’ degree.
Some schools that offer programs of this kind will also offer you assistance when it comes time to find a job in the industry. However in most cases, you will need to do your job hunting on your own. Your local newspaper as well as online job listings will be helpful at this point of your career.
Further education is definitely something that you should do once you have become a dental nurse. In some states you may be required to do continuing education in order to maintain your certification as a dental assistant, but even if you are based in a state where this is not a requirement it is still strongly recommended that you keep your skills and knowledge up to date. With more advanced education and training you may have the option of moving on to be an actual dentist or an oral hygienist, although this will take hard work and dedication. However simply having gained experience as a dental nurse or assistant over the course of a year or so will make the skills that you need to earn easier and will also improve your chances of getting a job as a dentist or oral hygienist once you have qualified as such.
Careers In Dental Nursing
Although the title of ‘dental nurse’ is a UK job position, it is possible to become a dental nurse in the United States. There are a number of aspects to consider when looking at a career in dental nursing.
The primary duties that a dental nurse may be responsible for performing on a regular basis include the following:
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for assisting the patient throughout his or her visit
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for surgery preparation
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for assisting with dental instruments
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for preparing a filling
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for sterilizing all dental tools and equipment after each patient visit
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for establishing a healthy and safe environment in the workplace
- As a dental nurse you will be responsible for maintaining vital patient records
In essence you will be performing the roles of an assistant to a qualified dentist. Consequently the job title is often given as dental assistant, although it is extremely helpful if you have nursing qualifications as well as nursing experience.
There are a number of different locations in which you may find employment as a dental nurse:
- Private settings
- The government (through community dental services)
- The armed forces
One of the more common locations to find a dental nurse would be in a private setting. Here the term ‘private’ refers to a private dental practice of some kind that is not affiliated with the government. In addition there are a number of hospitals that offer dental services and therefore need to employ dental assistants. Although many people considering the career look on it as a line of work that will not provide a great deal of room for diversity or career growth, there are in fact a large number of options that will be available to you if you work in this position. The job can also serve as a stepping stone to a more advanced career within the healthcare profession, and excellent profession with which to become involved as it provides guaranteed job security and job stability.
As mentioned previously there are no advanced education prerequisites involved in becoming a dental nurse. Consequently you should be able to seek employment in this line of work with nothing more than a high school diploma or an equivalent thereof. However you must bear in mind that many employers looking for dental nurses will not employ you unless you have completed some education of some kind. In summary, although education is not a requirement, it is highly recommended that you complete a training course of some kind. You have the option of completing a National Certificate in Dental Nursing, which will increase your employment opportunities significantly. There are a number of ways in which such a certificate can boost your credentials:
- It shows that you are willing to do more than is required in life, a valuable trait in most employees.
- You will also be able to use it as proof that you have an understanding of what is expected of you and that you are better qualified for the job than someone without a similar qualification or certification to their name.
In the long run, seeking certification is one of the better moves you could make.
Once you have taken those first steps and become a dental nurse there are many other options that may become open to you. With further study and dedication you could move on to becoming a fully fledged dentist or oral hygienist. Many nurses who choose to pursue this path do so as a stepping stone to a more advanced career in which they are likely to receive a higher salary and more job benefits. An interest in dental care will be extremely helpful if you hope to pursue this line of work as a lifelong career option.
Entering the field of dental nursing or dental assisting can pave your way to a lifelong and stable career in the healthcare industry. This is an excellent aim to pursue as the healthcare industry is well known as being the industry that is expanding at the fastest rate in comparison to all other industries. It is one of the easier healthcare careers in which to become involved as you do not need to have any advanced qualifications and the non-compulsory training that you can take in order to improve your employment opportunities will not take a very long time.