Are dental nurses paid enough in the UK?

Last week, we asked the dental profession if dental nurses are paid enough in the UK – find out what people said here…

Dentistry’s Big Questions is a brand new feature exploring the hot topics of the profession.

Last week’s question was: Are dental nurses paid enough in the UK?

Based on our poll, 82.8% of respondents said no, 12.9% were unsure, and some 4.3% think dental nurses are paid enough.

Hear what the dental profession said below…

Scroll to the bottom for next week’s Big Question.

Gemma Forsythe, dental nurse

Absolutely not. Dental nurses have been underpaid and under appreciated for a long time. With an ever expanding list of responsibilities, pay should also expand but in a lot of cases dental nurses are expected to take on more duties for the same wages as before.

Add into the mix the fact you study hard for two years and complete two exams to qualify to work as a dental nurse, GDC registration, indemnity, CPD etc (if the practice does not pay for these).

You should not have to settle for pay that does not reflect the value which you contribute to your workplace, especially considering the cost of living crisis and costs of everything skyrocketing.

Let’s be honest, dental practices could not run without their dental nurses – they are without a doubt the backbone of the dental practice

Paul Gallop, principal dentist

Generally no. But why is this? The dentist needs to charge enough to cover the hourly rate of the nurse as well.

If a hygienist has a support nurse then the hygienist fee to the patient has to cover the hourly rate of both the hygienist and nurse. It’s simple maths… just charge enough to cover paying the nurse a proper wage.

Dentists need to stop behaving as if they should be cheap. Stop all this free consultations etc and respect yourself and your staff. Charge the right amounts to cover your nurses’ wages. Giving free treatment and free consultations will not pay the bills and will definitely not gain you any respect.

Kezia S Hussain, dental nurse

No, not at all.

Since 2008 I’ve worked in both NHS and private [dentistry] and have so much experience in general surgery, sedation, implants, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics. I took a break to have my baby – when I went to go back the hourly rate was not acceptable.

I’m not taking all that responsibility to be paid less than a non skilled worker that doesn’t need to be registered or need indemnity. Even healthcare assistants in general medicine don’t need registration and are paid same amount or more, and they don’t do surgery.

I locumed and went back to uni to retrain because it doesn’t matter how much I love dentistry, like every good nurse we will move on, we learn a lot from nursing everyday and we know our worth.

If there was more progression available in-house and the wage was decent, more of us would stay. But the way it stands, we are put at the bottom and our skills are disregarded – the average pay bracket only reinforces these feelings.

Kylie Platt, dental nurse

I think the dwindling number of dental nurses points out how underpaid we are.

Endless amounts of pressure, targets and hygiene standards to meet – a cleaner earns more money than most dental nurses.

A pizza lunch to say thanks doesn’t pay the ARF, indemnity, CPD or bills.

Cheryl Chapman, senior dental nurse

Absolutely not. Many of the nurses love the job itself but are let down with the appalling wages. Inflation is causing nurses to struggle to make ends meet as their wages are not upped at the same rate.

It is a very skilled and stressful profession and at a very fast pace to keep up with the contracted targets the practice has to meet. It is physically draining. There are many standards to uphold being a caring profession. After passing the NVQ qualifications, you have to also fit in the CPD which is many hours of coursework.

There are expenses too – for courses, for registration every year and indemnity insurance. I’ve recently found out that most have to buy part of their uniforms too. Many have to travel to different practices and also receive no extra for doing so. There is no sick pay, only statutory, no benefits like the NHS staff have in the hospitals.

Most nurses are either leaving or thinking of leaving due to the poor pay. Especially now the living wage has increased as they are made to feel underappreciated/valued for all they do.

Most nurses, even the most experienced, have to train new nurses as well as doing their own work. They are more or less on the same money as a new starter with no experience. It is so wrong!

I wish someone would do a ‘day in the life of a dental nurse’ documentary see how hard they work. We feel hidden!

Stevie Potter, dentist

Absolutely not. We seem to treat them as glorified cleaners – and pay them less!

We need to stop moaning that nobody wants to go into dental nursing and start to be honest about the reasons why. They get treated pretty roughly by many, for peanuts.

I’m impressed that any new blood appears in the profession to be honest!

Julia Eleftheriadou-Howson, dental nurse

Definitely not!

1. Think of all the training we have to do and the studying, to qualify and register with the GDC.

2. Think of all the hours of CPD we have to complete in our own personal time.

3. Think of all the responsibility we have and the different skills we need to develop in order to be efficient and cover all the different duties (reception, complaint handling, infection control, radiographs, oral surgeries, OHI etc)

4. Think of the long hours we work, the standing for most of our shift, the impact on our health and posture.

5. Think of all the extra post-qualifications available, that need studying during our own time, effort and are time consuming but most of the time never result in a pay increase

6. Think of the fact that we are exposed to bacteria, viruses, bodily fluids and dangerous disinfectant agents

7. Think of all the cleaning we have to do all day.

Suzanne Hardie, dental nurse

It’s not often that we nurse past mid 30s at a push – usually earlier if we become parents due to being able to earn more money elsewhere.

I’m still at it 32 years later (non parent) because I love it and that is the main reason most of us still nurse. It should not take just passion and duty to retain an entire profession. We don’t want to be paid a fortune but a wage relevant to our qualifications and the work we have trained for. I have a couple of dental nurse friends who are single/non flatsharing and have to work other jobs to supplement their wage.

I have the privilege of a husband/dual income to assist in day to day cost of living. This should not be a profession where we have to be married or work second jobs to afford to live.

The next Big Question is: Is the future bright for dental technicians?

What do you think? Let’s get a discussion going – email your thoughts to [email protected] to feature in our follow-up article in which we will share the views from across the profession.

Previous Big Questions:

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