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Dental Nursing – Higher Certificate

  • CAO Points: 270

  • Campus: Athlone

  • years: 2

Course Overview

This course will give you the clinical competence to work as a dental nurse.  Students with an interest in teamwork and communication will be supported to assist within a dental team.  The dental nursing student will participate in dental placement enabling students to communicate, demonstrate clinical skills, administration duties and problem solve within their scope of practice under the supervision of a registered dentist.

Why take this course? 

Dental nurses play an essential role in the dental practice. They assist the dentist during dental procedures. Their duties include:

  • Preparing the surgery and assisting at chairside during dental procedures.
  • Infection, Prevention and control procedures including decontamination of dental instruments, equipment and dental surgeries.
  • Recording dental charting, maintaining treatment records and assisting with developing dental radiographs.
  • Liaising and supporting patients and dental colleagues in the case of a medical emergency and delivering appropriate oral health promotion advice.
  • They may also be responsible for administrative duties, such as making appointments and bookkeeping. Employment opportunities include private dental practice, dental hospitals, and the public sector (HSE).

Contact Details

Kellie O’Shaughnessy


What are the entry requirements?

Leaving Certificate

A minimum of 5 O6/H7 grades in Leaving Certificate subjects, including Mathematics and English/Irish.


Any major QQI award with three distinctions and a pass in C20139 or 5N1833 or C20174 or C2017 or Leaving Certificate Maths at O6/H7.

Mature Applicants

A limited number of places are available for mature applicants (23 years of age or over on the first day of January on the year of application). Mature applicants must satisfy the minimum entry requirements for the Programme and will also be assessed through face-to-face interview.

International Applicants

International applicants should apply directly to the International Office at TUS, allowing plenty of time for completing the visa process. Applications for September start should be made by 1st June at the latest to ensure visas are processed in time. You should familiarise yourself with visa processing times for your country of origin to ensure you make a timely application. Find out more here.

Course Modules

  • Dental Anatomy & Oral Disease I

    This module will identify the anatomical and physiological structures in the head and neck with particular focus on the oral cavity and provide an overview of how these structures function and their relevance to the clinical application of dental nursing.

  • Infection Prevention & Control

    This module will inform students on the importance of infection, prevention and control (IPC) and to provide them with the skills to demonstrate its application in the clinical dental environment.

  • Clinical Dentistry I

    This module will focus on the theoretical and practical skills necessary to participate in a dental practice placement. Clinical skills teaching will take place in the Dental Training facilities at TUS (see video at the top of the course page).

  • Evidence based practice for Healthcare

    The aim of this module is to introduce the student to the evidence base underpinning the delivery of clinically effective practice and care.

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology for Healthcare

    Introducing healthcare students to human anatomy and physiology along with frequently used terminology.

  • Clinical Dentistry II

    This module will focus further on the theoretical and core fundamental skills for dental nursing practice placement this semester.

  • Preparation for Dental Nursing Practice Placement

    This module will prepare the student for Clinical Dental Nursing Placement I and the role of the dental nurse when assisting the dentist, in safeguarding the health of patients and promoting the welfare of the community including Medical emergencies.

  • Clinical Dental Nursing Placement I

    This block of Clinical Dental Placement will introduce students to the Dental Clinical Practice area and demonstrate the core fundamental skills necessary for the provision of dental care to patients in the clinical dental setting. Through Clinical Dental Placement the student will have the opportunity to develop core competencies in line with the Dental Nursing Competency based Framework in TUS.

  • Dental Anatomy & Oral Diease II

    This module explores the anatomical and physiological structures of the head/neck, an overview of how these structures function, emphasis on the aetiology and pathological factors of dental diseases. This will include an introduction to pathophysiology and treatment of systemic diseases.

  • Anatomy, Physiology & Pharmacology for Healthcare

    This module will provide the student with knowledge and understanding of the structure and function of the human body across the lifespan as applied in healthcare including the principles of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.

  • Clinical Dentistry III

    The student will learn the theoretical and practical skills necessary to actively participate in a dental practice placement. Continuing the clinical component of the dental nursing programme within the simulation dental training facilities.

  • Clinical Dental Nursing Placement II

    The aim of the Clinical Dental Placement block is to enable the student to participate under close supervision of a competent Dental Healthcare Worker in the Dental Clinical Practice setting.

  • Sociology for Healthcare

    This module will enable students to understand the sociological dynamics of caring for individuals in contemporary society. The student will acquire an understanding of social factors and how they influence oral health and dentistry.

  • Psychology and Communication

    Introducing the student to the broad theories and principles of psychology and provide a foundation for the application of psychology theories to health. The module will also outline the key elements of effective interpersonal communication and professional relationships.

  • Dental Research (Evidence Based Practice)

    An introduction to scientific peer-reviewed research in the areas of dental health, dental nursing and dental evidence-based practice. Students will be guided on how to search, effectively read, understand critical appraisal tools and summarise scientific information.

  • Clinical Dentistry IV

    This is the clinical component of the dental nursing programme that enables students to demonstrate communication skills with patients in the context of appropriate post-operative and care instructions, oral health education (supported by Oral Health Promotion module), and administration duties (supported by Dental Practice Management module).

  • Oral Health Promotion

    Students are introduced to the principles and practice of health promotion for oral health, and prevention of dental diseases.  This module will teach students how to deliver practical individual and group Oral Health Promotion projects within the dental practice and community.

  • Clinical Dental Nursing Placement III

    During the final block of Clinical Dental Placement students will participate as a competent Dental Healthcare Worker in the Dental Clinical Practice setting.  Students will develop a portfolio of learning which is clinically focused in its entirety, allowing the student to apply theory to practice.

  • Health & Safety in the Dental Practice

    Students will develop knowledge and understanding of Health and Safety Legislation, and relevant responsibilities in Dental Practice.

  • Dental Practice Management

    Students will recognise the importance of patient/client centred practice, the importance of personal, staff and customer care and develop the business management skills required of the Dental Nurse within the team in the Dental Practice.

What can you do after this programme?

Many dental nurses progress to Senior Dental Nursing roles and Clinical Dental Nurse managers. Other progressive parts include Dental Nurse Tutor / Educators, Practice Management, Treatment Co-Ordination, Marketing representatives within the dental field and Oral Health Promotion.

Further study pathways include; Orthodontic therapy, Dental Hygiene, Sedation training, Radiography, and Dental Implant nursing.

More Information

The Higher Certificate in Science (Dental Nursing) has the approval of the Dental Council of Ireland. 

All offers will be subject to Garda Vetting. Due to the risk of exposure to infectious agents in the clinical environment all applicants will be required to undertake a Hepatitis B vaccination. 

Student Testimonials

‘The dental lecturers supported and cared about every student throughout the two year course.’

‘I found the dental nusing course a perfect balance, balancing the serious aspect of study along with the study time needed. It made my experience so much easier.’

‘I cannot commend the dental team in Athlone enough. I am honoured to be a graduate with TUS and a now fully qualified Dental Nurse.’

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