There isn’t a dental nurse shortage, and here’s why…

‘Practices should be looking at their dental nurses as an investment, not a cost for the practice’: dental nurse Rebecca Silver discusses some of the reasons why practices could be struggling with dental nurse recruitment.

I would like to reply to the recent online article, ‘Why I’m unsurprised we’re in a dental nursing recruitment crisis’ by a dentist who wishes to remain anonymous.

I would like to talk about some of the points that were raised and explain why this type of thinking as a practice owner may be why they are struggling with their recruitment.

1. £27,000 annual pay

Based on a 40 hour working week, this only equates to roughly £12 an hour. This dental practice is based in London and London wages normally reflect this.

Offering what is essentially just above minimum wage to a working professional is not attractive to potential dental nurses.

Why would they wish to apply to a practice that is only offering this when they could apply to a practice that is offering more? Or take a job that isn’t in dentistry for the same or more money, but without the need to pay for ARF, indemnity and CPD courses?

There is also a comment about the cost of wages, but practices should be looking at their dental nurses as an investment, not a cost for the practice.

Too many businesses look at how much they pay out in wages each month, instead of how a well-trained dental nurse can actually increase income for the practice as whole.

2. Offering apprenticeships

I can see the benefit in offering apprenticeships. But what is the problem with ‘growing’ their own staff while they are on a course or apprenticeship scheme?

The writer seems to think that training for dental nurses should only be given by other dental nurses and that it is down to the qualified dental nurse to support and mentor them.

But would the practice remunerate the registered and qualified dental nurse for spending extra time with the apprentice? Or would it become another role of a dental nurse which does not come with any extra pay?

3. The year 2008

I find it quite interesting that the writer comments on the year of 2008. This is when professional registration became mandatory for dental nurses.

The fact that the dentist seems to remember how many applicants they received for their job roles almost 15 years ago is quite thought-provoking.

I’m not sure how many other practices can say with confidence that 15 years ago they had more applicants.

4. GDC

I am at a loss to see why the GDC should be concerned with where qualified dental nurses are available.

As dental nurses, we do not receive any monetary help from the regulator, nor would I expect us to. But the writer writes as if it is their responsibility.

I also disagree with the fact that ‘supplies’, which I assume means dental nurses, are depleted. Dental nurses are consistently the largest registration group, so one can argue there isn’t a shortage of dental nurses.

I also take issue with the comment on the fact that dental nurses have to be registered and qualified: ‘…to the GDC’s regulation, we can no longer hire [dental] nurses unless they’re either qualified or registered or on an approved training scheme’.

Why does the thought of dental nurses being registered seem to provoke such a response? Surely, as a health care provider you would want to be surrounded by suitably trained and qualified members of staff?

This can only benefit the practice and patients by raising the standards of dentistry. The fact that the writer feels this is a detriment is concerning. Dental nurses have fought to have a seat at the dental table, and are still fighting today to be seen as dental professionals in our own right.

5. No difference between trained dental nurses and on-the-job dental nurses

I think it is wrong to say there is no difference between now and 15 years ago for the standard of dental nurses.

There are many benefits of having training that is used across the UK as it standardises the knowledge expected of the registrant group and allows them the freedom to choose jobs.

The mentality of picking up dental nurses from the street and offering them a job benefited both the member of staff and the practice, but more likely the practice.

Training a member of staff to your way of working restricts dental nurses from moving onto different roles. This is because their knowledge may not be equal to what is expected of them as a professional, meaning they stay in one job for a long time. Again, this benefits the practice.

Being trained allows them the freedom to gain other qualifications. This can only be invested back into the practice as a dental nurse with many skill sets can allow certain tasks to be performed by them. This can take the pressure off other clinicians and allows them to complete other care that only they can perform.

This includes any course that allows us to work within our scope of practice, or one of the many post registration certificates which means we can work with different patients groups such as orthodontics or special care dentistry.


Our professional titles are dental nurses. And by only using the title ‘nurse’, which anyone can use, this takes away from the professionalism of dental nurses and the profession as whole.

I find it disheartening to read such an article from our colleagues about dental nurses. I don’t believe there is a dental nurse shortage, which I haven written and spoken about previously.

The anonymous article is from the perspective of someone struggling with recruitment but not necessarily looking at themselves objectively and why a dental nurse would want to work for their practice instead of a rival.

We should be raising the standards of dentistry together, not moaning about times 15 years ago.

Read ‘Why I’m unsurprised we’re in a dental nursing recruitment crisis’ here.

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