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A Day in the Life: A Dental Nurse

Dental nurse
Dental Nurse ICE

An interview with the senior nurse at ICE Postgraduate Dental Institute and Hospital, Heather Pendlebury, discussing her post-qualifications in dental nursing and the benefits of her job.

Tell me about your background and how you got into dentistry?

I fell into dentistry, to be honest, I had a job when I was 14 and I was bored with it. Actually, I was working in a chippy. And it just so happened that the practice around the corner from where I was living had a break in, and my boyfriend went and had to sort it out. Then afterwards, they said to him, “You don’t happen to know someone that would be interested in doing an apprenticeship here do you?” And he said, “I do actually,” (meaning me).

I wasn’t particularly looking for a career in dentistry, I just wanted something different to do. Because, I left school with very few GCSE’s – I just didn’t enjoy school. And now, thirteen years later, I can now proudly say, I hold a number of dental post-qualifications and I decided to go back and redo my GCSE’s. I did it all again!

What difference do you feel further education has made to you as a dental nurse?

I have a better understanding of the job. In both the private and NHS sector you can feel the changes, in particular the strain on the NHS. I feel like the younger nurses who are just starting out, I get a lot of pleasure in guiding them with my extra knowledge. I’m happy to help them. And, as I am a mentor for the National Examining Body for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) that helps me push people in the right direction.

Which one of your post-qualifications do you feel was the most valuable for you?

I think the implant nursing course as it’s something I’ve had an interest in for a long time. We did a lot of surgical treatments at my old practice, but here, at ICE, it’s all we do. And that I love.

I like to get my hands dirty, basically!

How would you rate the experience of each course?

They’ve all been different, to be honest. They were all distance learning, so you need to be focused and disciplined in your learning style at all times. You have to set aside the time to do it. You’ve got deadlines, online webinars and regular communication with your tutor, so dedication is a must. Also, I realised that organisation, to an extent, is very important as well.

You’ve got deadlines, online webinars and regular communication with your tutor, so dedication is a must.”

What do you think are the benefits of being a dental nurse?

You get to see the patient journey from start to finish. That’s always very satisfying.

You can have a patient come in and they have no self esteem or confidence and that’s all because they feel like they can’t smile – it’s all down to their teeth. They don’t want pictures taken. It really effects them in a way that you can’t relate to. And at the end of the treatment, to be able to give them something they’ve always wanted, it’s very rewarding in itself. Don’t get me wrong, it could be a very long and painful process but it’s always worth it.

For example, we had one patient and she’d fallen over and broke all her front teeth. She was given a denture and, unfortunately, it was unflattering on her. So we gave her fixed teeth, and the transformation was unbelievable. It was instantaneous. She looked 10 years younger by giving her lip support back. She was able to smile from ear to ear.

What is a typical day for you like from start to finish?

I get to work and, first thing’s first, I put the kettle on!

I get changed into my uniform and head downstairs (with my brew). I prepare the surgeries for the day, so turn the lights on, and put the chairs down, check the instruments, and lab work and day sheets for the day. I make sure I have everyone’s notes ready.

Any instruments from the night before, I have to check and make sure they’re turned on and clean. And then, the day starts really, which basically means, I’m running around like a headless chicken. The days fly by for me – one minute I’m in surgery helping them scan treatments, then the next minute I need to be scrubbing up and placing an implant with a dentist. Or I need to be ready to take an X-ray.

However, on a quieter day I’m just catching up on paperwork, which is nice; you feel like your life is organised again.

Then, I have lunch which is an hour. This gives me a chance to catch up with people and see how everyone else’s day is going.

Then in the afternoon, I could potentially be on reception while the receptionist takes her lunch. This could include taking phone calls and answering patient enquiries.

Then, when the end of the day comes, I have half an hour to shut down, so, making sure the suctions are clean. This means disinfecting them with something called Oratol. I put that in the bucket with water, placing the suction onto it and this works by flushing the lines out by making sure it’s clean and doesn’t have any stagnant saliva or blood. Then open the suction up and take the filters out to clean. I wipe the sides down and the chairs, and then clean the floors. And then, after that, I can finally close the door and turn the lights out until the next day and I have to do it all again.


If you would like to pursue further education in dental nursing, please visit our courses page.

Alternatively, please contact our Programmes Administrator, Carl Morgan:

email carl.morgan@icedental.institute or call 0161 413 8335

You might like to read: The Importance of Post-Qualifications in Dental Nursing