Essential Terms and Topics for Dental Nurses

14th Mar 2024

Embarking on a career in dentistry or already immersed in the field, dental nurses play a crucial role in patient care. To enhance their proficiency and stay abreast of evolving trends, it’s imperative for dental nurses to familiarise themselves with key terms and topics within the dental realm. This article aims to shed light on important subjects that may not be part of daily practice but are instrumental in honing dental knowledge.

Minamata Convention

The Minamata Convention, an international treaty, holds particular significance in dentistry due to its aim of safeguarding the public from the harmful effects of mercury. Dental amalgam, a common filling material, contains mercury, and the convention seeks to reduce mercury release. Originating from a tragedy in Minamata, Japan, this convention outlines restrictions on the use of dental amalgam, especially in specific patient groups.

Gillick Competence

Gillick competence addresses the ability of patients under 16 years old to consent to treatment without parental knowledge. In dentistry, where the age of consent is 18, clinicians must assess Gillick competence by evaluating the child's mental capacity, comprehension of treatment implications, and rational decision-making. Understanding consent in younger patients is essential for ethical and legal practice.

Water Fluoridation

Initiated to combat tooth decay, water fluoridation, starting with Birmingham in 1964, has become a widespread preventive measure. With approximately 6 million people benefiting from water fluoridation, particularly in the West Midlands and North East regions of the UK, this practice significantly reduces tooth decay, showcasing its success in oral health promotion.

PMPR - Professional Mechanical Plaque Removal

Replacing the traditional "scale and polish," PMPR, or Professional Mechanical Plaque Removal, encompasses both supragingival and subgingival procedures. While adapting to this new terminology may take time, dental professionals are expected to embrace it gradually. The British Society of Periodontology encourages the adoption of this terminology in everyday practice.


The Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR17) and Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulation 2017 (IRMER17) provide guidelines for radiographic exposures and the management of radiographs and equipment. Adherence to these regulations is crucial for ensuring the safety and efficacy of radiographic procedures in dental practices.


Health Technical Memorandum 01-05 (HTM01-05) specifically addresses primary care dental practices. Focusing on decontamination and sterilisation equipment maintenance, dental nurses are expected to follow HTM guidelines to uphold best practices in infection control.

Antibiotic Resistance

As antibiotic resistance poses a growing threat, dental professionals, including dental nurses, must be aware of the risks associated with diseases that no longer respond to conventional antibiotics. Changes in prescription guidelines underscore the importance of responsible antibiotic use. Dental nurses can refer to guidelines on the SDCEP's website for comprehensive information.

Arming themselves with knowledge beyond routine practices, dental nurses become not only efficient professionals but also contributors to a broader understanding of dental care. This continuous learning journey ensures that dental nurses remain at the forefront of their field, providing optimal patient care and contributing to the ever-evolving landscape of dentistry.