A good relationship with your dental team is so important.

It can help you understand more about how to take better care of your mouth and will allow you to be more comfortable speaking to them about any treatments you may have.

This can help put you at ease, especially if you have any concerns.

While most people still might think of the dentist leading your treatment, there are many different types of dental professionals that  make up the dental team.

Here are just some of the different people you might find when you step into the dental practice. 

Dental nurse

  • Looks after patient records and makes notes when the dentist is examining you.

  • Provides support with treatment.

  • Assists the dentist chair-side.

  • Supports other members of the team.

  • Decontaminates the instruments and maintains equipment.

  • Makes sure all relevant materials and supplies are ready.

  • Can also work in hospital settings providing oral care.

  • Offers reassurance, answers any questions and puts you at ease over any fears you may have.

Anita Stanforth is a dental nurse now working in a hospital with speech and language therapists, and she volunteered to speak about her experience as a dental nurse, sharing some of the most memorable moments from her career.

“I had a patient come in from a care home who was in a terrible state of oral health. His breath was so bad that none of the staff wanted to go into his room and give him his personal care. So I was called in to see him and his tongue was totally coated and unpleasant, his teeth were filthy basically, and the dry mouth was making him struggle.

“It was more about guiding him with his oral health and showing him what to do. I had a nurse with me who was caring for him as we went through things, demonstrating and just generally showing him what to do. He was so grateful and I know it meant a lot to him because his main concern leaving hospital was whether or not the care home staff would be able to help him keep up his oral hygiene.”

Dental therapist

  • Provides treatment in a range of places in the community, such as schools and care homes

  • Gives oral health education.

  • Clinical examinations, scaling and polishing teeth.

  • Stop smoking advice and further care and treatment plans.

  • Takes impressions and carry out restoration work.

  • Treats those with dental anxiety, existing medical conditions, physical or learning disabilities, or high levels of untreated decay.

Lauren Barry is a dental therapist working in the community and has lots of experience with different types of patients and helping people overcome challenges with their oral hygiene.

“I worked with a young girl who was probably about 7 or 8 who was really anxious and scared of the dentist, she wouldn’t let anyone look in her mouth and she was also one of those children who just couldn’t cope with the sensation of wobbly teeth.

“We worked together for months meeting regularly and just doing things in little steps. Gradually over time she would let me brush her teeth, then over time she would let me use my equipment on her teeth to get off the bits of plaque which she couldn’t manage to get.

“It got towards COVID and because of the pandemic I couldn’t see her anymore and it was quite sad because I do like to know how people are doing.

“She came back in for an examination with a dentist and she sat in the dentist’s chair and had her exam and was totally fine, then she came back to see me another time and had the most lovely smile and super clean teeth!

“I know that helped her. I love that about my job, I love working with anxious patients and helping them with feeling empowered and confident to sit in a dental chair and have an exam done.”

Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists mostly focus on helping you prevent dental problems. and treating gum disease. They show you how to take care of your mouth at home and help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Some of the procedures which your dental hygienist can do include:

  • Scaling and polishing teeth.

Most dental hygienists work in dental practices, but some may also appear in hospitals and community dental services.

Anna Middleton - aka LondonHygienist - told us how much being a dental hygienist means to her and how she has managed to help her patients find their smile again.

“I had a patient not so long ago who came to see me specifically because they’d read about me and the treatments that I carry out. They had bad experiences in the past and they were aware that they had several dental issues that needed correcting.

“We spent that first visit sort of acclimatising and getting used to each other and getting them to trust me, showing them that I would do as much or as little as they wanted me to do but at the end of that appointment I did say to them that I had identified that they would benefit from seeing other team members since they had some more advanced problems. I told him at his follow up appointment too that I felt I couldn’t help him unless we do some of the other things that were needed.

“By this point she was enjoying coming in and felt she was in a safe environment and so she did go on to have some treatment with a periodontist and did unfortunately need to have some of her teeth extracted. But when we came to the end of her treatment she was periodontally stable and not only that but where she had some teeth missing these had now been restored.

“The patient also said that not only had the whole journey been really pleasant for her but she feels confident now smiling and she feels she now has the understanding to carry on looking after her oral health for the rest of her life.”

More information