Nursing support for dental hygienists and dental therapists


  Posted by: Dental Design      9th September 2020

In most life situations, we know that support is invaluable. Across almost all industries there is an innate support network available for employees, meaning that they have people to rely on and a helping hand should they need it.

Within the dental profession, it is expected that Dentists are routinely supported by Dental Nurses and the use of Four Handed Dentistry. In other words, a Dental Nurse aides a Dentist before, during and after treatment to ensure that everything runs smoothly. So why is it not expected that Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists are offered the same support?

Support makes all the difference

It’s no surprise that teamwork within the dental surgery is something that can bring a host of benefits. Four Handed Dentistry is a perfect example of this, with Dental Nurses supporting Dentists in a number of ways so that treatment processes are of higher quality and more convenient for professional and patient alike.

Emotionally, the support of a Dental Nurse is key to preventing stress in practice. It’s not uncommon for certain procedures to be mentally taxing, sometimes even before they begin. By having a team member on side to help prepare and carry out these treatments, the pressure of the situation is shared, reducing stress and having the safety net of knowing someone is there should extra encouragement or assistance be needed. This also helps to lessen fatigue – some treatments can be time intensive, and having another pair of hands present can help prevent fatigue from causing error – which is also invaluable considering we now live in a highly litigious society.

Another huge benefit of this support is that it streamlines treatment. For professionals, this is often a great way to save time without impacting the quality of treatment given, meaning that appointments can be optimised. This time can also be used to build a better bond with patients, secure their trust and open the door to possibilities of more lucrative treatment opportunities. Before the coronavirus pandemic, this approach also meant higher productivity, meaning shorter appointments and therefore more patients in a day. It’s impossible to say how long the current fallow period necessities will last, but this is definitely another benefit to bear in mind if and when a more normal approach to care is resumed.

From a patient perspective, having more people on hand when treatment is being performed is also advantageous. It’s likely that patients feel more comfortable when there are more professionals overseeing treatments, helping to put them at ease.

So what about Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists?

As you may already be aware, some Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists are currently expected to work without Dental Nurse support. This is regardless of GDC Standards for the Dental Team 6.2.2 stating that state that “you should work with another appropriately trained member of the dental team at all times when treating patients in a dental setting.”[i], a guideline which then continues to state that the only exceptions to this are when operating in emergency hours or in unforeseen, exceptional circumstances. So why is it not standard practice already, especially considering it could be of huge benefit, not only to people within these professions, but also the whole dental team?

Of course, enacting this change does bring barriers – namely that this would, in the long run, require the appointment of more Dental Nurses. However, when looking at this from a wider perspective, this hurdle can easily be surmounted. By providing Dental Nursing support for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists it’s likely that Dentists would be able to better delegate a larger number of treatments to these clinicians (of course, within their scope of practice) freeing up time for Dentists to pursue more complex treatment possibilities with patients that are often more time consuming.

In the current situation there’s also the possibility of Dental Nurse sharing. Due to the fallow period being a necessity, there’s every option for a Dental Nurse to assist both Dentists and Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists, utilising the team better for more a polished, streamlined service for patients.

Calling for support

The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) has made it its mission to make dental nursing support for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists standard practice. The pandemic has once again highlighted the need for Four Handed Dentistry for all clinicians, and a survey put out by the Society has shown overwhelming support for the idea.

The BSDHT are well known for making change happen, so it has become one of our top priorities to campaign and raise awareness of the issue with the goal to bring positive change in the future.

A team united

Dentistry, by nature, is a team effort. By extending support for Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists it’s likely that practices will be able to act as a more cohesive unit, but also have the freedom to branch out in new directions while lessening the strain on all members of the team.


For more information about the BSDHT, please visit

call 01788 575050 or email


[i] GDC Guidelines. Principle Six. Working With Colleagues In A Way That Serves The Interests of Patients. Link: [Last accessed August 20].

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