Cavity Dental Staff Blog

Key Skills for Dental Nurses

27th Oct 2023
Agency Locum Dental Nursing

Dental nurses are dedicated to their work and supporting patients through their dental experiences. In order to deliver a high standard of care to patients, they use many key skills along with their dental knowledge and a positive mindset. We’re going to look at those key skills in more detail…


Nurses spend a great deal of their day communicating with their team and their patients. Naturally changes and updates may occur throughout the day with patients' appointments. Therefore, nurses need to be able to relay information efficiently to the receptionist or the clinician. Communication before and during treatment is imperative to ensure both you and the clinician are on the same page and the dental care doesn’t get impacted.

Communicating well with the patient starts from the moment they arrive at the dental practice. Nurses will need to welcome the patient with a friendly attitude and encourage them throughout the procedure. They may also provide oral health advice explaining to them how best to care for their teeth. Reassuring and talking the patient through the treatment and care they will receive is also crucial.


Being organised is another important skill for dental nurses. Knowing where instruments and material are located is crucial to their ability to source all necessary equipment ready for the appointment. A well organised nurse will keep their surgery tidy and clean. To ensure the next day's surgery is ready, they will replenish any materials or equipment. They will ensure  appointments are running smoothly and on time as much as possible, and they will also manage laboratory work of the patients.

Organisation is at the base of any successful working environment. For nurses this allows them to stay on top of their duties, avoid unnecessary stress and work efficiently in any environment.


Being flexible about work locations and areas of dentistry that dental nurses will work in is key in enabling continuous work placement and knowledge uptake. This also provides more opportunity to learn new things and develop skills. This flexibility gives nurses access to emerging technology thus providing opportunity for continuous learning and keeping up with latest dental trends. Additionally, spending time in diverse environments also helps to keep nurses grounded and understanding to the different backgrounds that people come from, thereby strengthening the importance of helping as many communities as they can.


Being able to adapt to working with the dentist one day and the dental hygienist or a specialist another day is vital in ensuring that the dental practice runs smoothly. A dental nurse will prepare for a day of working in general dentistry, where treatments can be anything from examinations to root canal treatment to then be working with the hygienist and needing to adapt to help them. Being able to selectively use different skills and knowledge each day is what makes nurses so valuable in their work placements. That together with their professionalism and friendliness contributes to increased efficiency in work. At the same time, this keeps their work dynamic and interesting with lots of opportunities to revise old knowledge and learn new skills.

A dental nurse will need to adapt to the needs of the patient as well. Whether they are working most of the day with young patients in community clinics or orthodontic clinics, dental nurses are exceptional at adapting their communication and clinical skills. Why is this important? During these days they will know that using simple terms, being patient and having visual materials like leaflets or stickers ready for their patients will ensure a good experience. Similarly, they may use different skills to support patients with dental anxiety, mental or physical disabilities and contribute to a positive dental visit. These include listening to their worries, being patient with them, checking in and ensuring that they are comfortable throughout the visit and being aware of things that may cause them anxiety like dental jargon or dental equipment on sight.

Time management

As soon as a dental nurse arrives at work, they check their daily list to see the type of appointments they have on that day. Why is this important? Arriving on time to work is vital to start the clinic on time as otherwise patients visit may be delayed which causes unnecessary stress for them and yourself. Making yourself aware of what the day will bring helps to organise time for turning instruments around and cleaning between appointments, inform the clinician of any changes to appointments, detect any potential delays and ask for help where needed.

Being proactive

When you have a cancellation or time between appointments go and offer your help to your colleagues, this goes such a long way, and your colleagues would be so grateful. Offering extra support to your clinician, or perhaps clearing their mirror, retracting soft tissues for them, holding their prophy cups or encouraging four-handed dentistry to help take the strain off their backs. Why is this important? It shows good team working skills and kindness. Offering a helping hand will always be appreciated and you will build a stronger working relationship. They will be more likely to help you out as well when needed.

There you have it, several important skills that dental nurses possess that enable an efficient and enjoyable work life where they are able to help many patients, work well in any environment and make long-lasting relationships with their dental colleagues.