Nursing Matters – dental nurses deserve more recognition

To mark National Dental Nurses Day, Gemma Forsythe reflects on how integral nurses are to the dental team and why they deserve more appreciation. 

To mark National Dental Nurses Day, Gemma Forsythe reflects on how integral nurses are to the dental team and why they deserve more appreciation. 

National Dental Nurses Day is 22 November. So, this month’s Nursing Matters column will be celebrating us dental nurses.

I also have a little surprise at the end of this article!

‘The one who helps the dentist’

We as dental nurses are one of the ‘lesser known’ roles of the dental team. Yes, patients could tell you that we are dental nurses,  but they don’t really know the extent of what we do.

They sometimes see us as the one who holds the suction, or types on the computer, or the ‘one who helps the dentist’.

In reality, we are the one who sets up for their treatment. We make sure the dentist has all the instruments and materials they need, we are the one who suctions all the water away so the patients don’t choke, the one who checks on them throughout their treatment to make sure they are comfortable, and the one who will reassure them and hold their hand if needs be.

Not only these, but we are also the ones who ensure there are clean instruments for the clinicians to use and that our surgery is spotless… I could go on!

We’re invaluable

You’re probably sat there thinking, ‘I know what my job is…where is this going?’

My point is, although there are people who may imply you are insignificant – and some days you may feel it yourself – you are such an integral part of the dental team.

Without us nurses, you know our clinicians would crumble.

Good nurses are invaluable. Always being organised, communicating via eye contact alone and, of course, being a mind reader!

We’re also always one step ahead and ensuring everything goes as smooth as possible.

Of course, there will be days where you’re double booked with emergencies, get fifteen minutes for your lunch and then the computer crashes sending you over the edge. But we all get those days!

And the best thing about us dental nurses is we are very adaptable.

It is not only our clinicians that rely on us though, but also our patients. After all, we are the friendly face who doesn’t inject them!

They will often look to the dental nurse for support and reassurance.

To mark National Dental Nurses Day, Gemma Forsythe reflects on how integral nurses are to the dental team and why they deserve more appreciation. 

A long way to go

A lot of the time, the dentist is so busy concentrating within the mouth that all they are seeing is teeth.

It is us nurses that can indicate to the clinician if any issues arise – if the patient is looking a bit pale, for example.

Patients will often feel more comfortable chatting to the dental nurse. And this allows us to build rapport and put our patients at ease.

I feel that, as dental nurses, we have a long way to go in terms of recognition and appreciation.

But we should be celebrated. It is such an important job we do, and we really are invaluable to our clinicians and indeed our practices.

In honour of Dental Nurses Day 2022, I have written a poem.  It is called So Much More, and you can read it below.

So Much More

By Gemma Forsythe RDN.


I have written this poem for dental nurse day,

And basically – what I am here to say,

Is that dental nurses are truly amazing,

And they deserve lots of praising!


Holding nervous patients’ hands,

Adding treatment onto patients’ plans,

Dental charting at the speed of light,

Ensuring throughout treatment that patients are alright.


Setting up the surgery for a filling,

Suctioning while the dentist is drilling,

Reinforcing the importance of using floss,

As we don’t want our patients to suffer tooth loss.


Educating patients on what causes dental caries,

Telling children stories about the tooth fairy,

Keeping the dental surgery sparkling clean,

Dental nurses are fuelled by smiles and caffeine.


When an anxious patient leaves the surgery with a smile,

That is what makes our job really worthwhile,

Disinfecting and packaging up impressions,

We really are so important to the dental profession.


Knowing the high importance of infection control,

Ensuring our patients are comfortable – that’s our goal,

Let’s not forget supporting our clinicians,

Dental nurses deserve a lot more recognition!


Providing extremely high standards of patient care,

Being ten steps ahead so we can prepare,

So here I am on my final poem verse,

To tell you you’re so much more, than just a dental nurse.

Catch up with previous Nursing Matters columns:

Follow on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar