Nursing matters – how important is the working relationship between dentist and dental nurse?

Gemma ForsytheGemma Forsythe rounds off 2021 with a discussion on the communication between dental nurse and dentist. 

Teamwork is essential for productivity, communication and good patient care. For a dental practice to run smoothly, it is important that the dental team can work together effectively.

This is especially important for the dentist and dental nurse as they work alongside each other in surgery every day. A good working relationship between dentist and nurse is the foundation of an efficient surgery.

It can take a while for a dentist and nurse to form a bond. It is not something that happens right away but it is something that develops over time the more that you work together.

In a previous practice I worked in, the dental nurses rotated around clinicians. But in the practice I currently work in (Magee Dental Care, Lurgan) I work with the one dentist.

I much prefer sticking with the one dentist as you can easily learn what they like and dislike. You can also anticipate much better what they will need and when. I found it quite hard when rotating between different clinicians to remember exactly what way they liked something as they all worked so differently.

Build rapport

The dentist I nurse with (Dr Christopher McAuley) does quite a bit of cosmetic treatment such as composite bonding and Invisalign. As these patients come in often over a period of time, you get to know each one and build rapport with them. It is very rewarding when someone comes in for their consultation with no confidence and ends up leaving their final appointment absolutely buzzing with their new smile.

I really enjoy working alongside Chris, I feel we work well as a team and we communicate effectively. I think when you get on with the clinician you work with, it makes life a lot easier – no one wants to dread going into work every day!

A big part of the dentist-nurse relationship is communication. Effective communication not only improves efficiency, but it also ensures each person knows where they stand and what’s happening throughout the day. When there is conflict or tension between a dentist and a nurse, it is all too apparent to the patient. The patient in the dental chair is like a sponge, absorbing everything they hear while lying there.

You may think they are oblivious and are in a world of their own. But they are always listening and will pick up on any negativity. A ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ go a long way and manners cost nothing.

I think this is important to remember – even when you’re running an hour behind, you’re hangry and you’re stressed!

Common goal

I did a poll on my Instagram recently (you can follow me @dentalnursegem) asking what dentists and nurses feel is most important maintaining a good relationship with your clinician/nurse. The top answer was respect/manners – it is not always what you say but also the tone you use to say it.

Other answers given were trust, banter, understanding, communication and lots of cups of tea/coffee! There were a few practice managers who responded to my poll and said in their practices they have nurses who don’t want to work with certain clinicians and vice versa.

I think the important thing to remember is that each individual has a different personality. Some people will naturally gel quicker and get on more than others. However, as you are working so closely with your clinician/nurse I think you should really make the effort to get on with who you’re working alongside.

We are both working towards a common goal, we are not working against one another. Whether our role is a clinician or a dental nurse, we both want things to go smoothly and want the best outcome for the patient.

I think for a good working relationship it is key to understand each other, communicate effectively and have a mutual respect for one another. You can’t go wrong with a bit of banter throughout the day too! You are doing a great job, working together in the best interests of your patients. That is what is important.


Catch up with previous Nursing Matters articles:

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