One Step Ahead

Original Publish Date: 01/04/2019

Dental Nurse

The Journal For a Career in Dental Nursing

Updated: 20/03/2020

A smile, a positive outlook and a well-supported team – Emma Anastasi shares her ‘must haves' for a happy working dental environment

Emma Anastasi, 30, has been a dental nurse for six years, joining King’s College Hospital as a trainee dental nurse in March 2012. This was a full-time, two-year course in which she attended classroom-based lectures and worked in departments on rotation in all areas of specialism. From there, she joined a multidisciplinary specialist practice in Wimpole Street and, in 2016, joined a practice in West Sussex as practice manager.

I completely fell into dentistry. I started as a receptionist at a mixed NHS practice in Mitcham, South London, in 2008. I had been encouraged to follow the path of a dental hygienist – and this had been my main goal until 2016. I never thought of it as a career until I started my dental nurse training. For me, it was a job to have until I knew what I wanted to do. At the time, I was volunteering as a Special Constable with the Metropolitan Police and was hoping to become a full-time police officer, so definitely not what I had aspired to do or where I thought my path would lead me.

One opportunity leads to another. I am very lucky to have had the support and encouragement from many special people who have all been instrumental in my personal and professional development.

My first ever practice manager – and now dear friend, Charmaine – offered me the receptionist role and encouraged me to go on to become a Dental Hygienist. A lovely locum dental nurse called Stacey pushed me to apply to King’s as a stepping stone towards this goal. If it was not for her, I wouldn’t have known that was ever an option.

I trained in a hospital setting, which I absolutely loved. There was a real sense of community and I was nursing for patients from all walks of life and this shaped my career. I gained experience in working in many areas of dentistry, such as paediatric, restorative, oral surgery, orthodontics, endodontics and other specialist clinics, alongside dental students, consultants and professors. I loved the variety.

A friend at the hospital introduced me to where she was working at a specialist private multidisciplinary practice and, again, I had the opportunity to work with world class clinicians. Towards the end of my 3 years at this practice, I was involved with the maxillofacial and oncology patients.

I really enjoyed all areas of speciality but was mostly amazed by (and so thankful for) the magic that facial prosthetics brings. I was really grateful for the opportunity to be involved in this clinic that contributed to restoring some lost confidence. I had no idea how implants could support facial prosthetics before this experience and it left me full of admiration to all involved. Especially to a massive influence and inspiration of mine, Dr Andrew Dawood. A wonderfully innovative mastermind that is always pushing boundaries with mixed medium and creative engineering. A well documented example of this incredible treatment had been featured Channel 4 and can be viewed here.

Dawood & Tanner had offered me many training and development opportunities that has again, contributed to my career progression. I feel very fortunate to have had leading examples of practice owners that are passionate in education and invest in their team members.

During my time at the practice, they had launched the Dawood & Tanner Academy and supported my Impression Taking, Implant Nursing , Suture Removal training and Dental Radiography training with the BDA with further in-house CBCT training at Cavendish imaging

I then moved to Brighton and accepted a role as a Practice Manager at a mixed NHS and private practice and managed a team of 9-10 people before launching Diamond Dental Staff. My focus and passion now, is to provide recruitment, locum and training services to practices in the UK.

I launched my own company, Diamond Dental Staff, in February 2018. I am still actively nursing (as and when I can), as I still really love the role of a dental nurse and the dental setting. When I am not nursing, I am out visiting practices, delivering our workshops or working from our London/Brighton offices with the rest of my team.

Being a part of the patient’s dental journey offers big rewards. For me, reassuring patients and building their confidence in the dental setting is a huge achievement. It's wonderful to be a part of the patients journey and has been quite emotional at times. (I am such a Soppy McSopperson). I will never forget when I was working with an amazing Periodontist, Dr Fiona Mackillop, and a patient was not happy with her smile. Dr Mackillop placed a small amount of composite to demonstrate the results of some minimally invasive dentistry, and the patient broke down in tears (happy tears!) to what could be achieved. It was such a moving appointment and is the exact reason why I still love being chair side.

We all have our challenges along the way. I have never been diagnosed with it, but I am sure I have dyscalculia, which is like dyslexia but with numbers. I get my letters and numbers all jumbled up. When I transitioned from a hospital environment (using the Palmer notation) to using FDI charting, it was a massive challenge for me. I remember thinking ‘I can’t do this’ and it took a lot for me to return to work the next day. I developed an anxiety about not being able to do it, getting it wrong and not feeling confident enough to explain and ask if we could just chart differently.

We all have our weaknesses and must adapt and learn to overcome them. Our strengths will always overcome our weaknesses and thankfully, I stuck with it.

Personal and professional attributes must always be considered in a team. A common challenge that I have seen in many practices is managing the many different personalities within the practice. One person can change the dynamics of the whole team and finding the balance can be tricky – especially if there is one character who may be quite overpowering. At Diamond Dental Staff, I ensure that everyone on our team makes the effort to get to know our candidates and clients well enough, so we are completely confident that we are introducing the right professionals to perfectly suit the team dynamics.

A smile and a positive outlook is more infectious than people realise. The working environment is so much nicer when the team feels supported. Dental nurses can make a difference by providing excellent patient care and by supporting their clinician and other team members. We all have the power to make a difference in someone’s day – it is the little things that make a difference. Personalities are infectious, its hard not to be happy when you are around happy people that love what they do.

The role of a dental nurse has to move with the times. I predict that, within the next two years, dental hygienists and therapists will be expected by regulators to have to work with a dental nurse at all times. It will have a great impact on dental nurses carrying out additional duties in order to support DH&Ts.

With everyone so aesthetically driven, more patients are opting for orthodontic treatment, whitening, veneers and implants, and facial aesthetics. With many practices now offering these treatment options, this is bound to include more responsibility with additional duties – mainly, dental photography, treatment coordinating and impression taking.

Diamond Dental Staff encourages clients to ‘Train and Retain’ their team. I can also see more and more dental nurses taking charge of the practice’s marketing, too. With social media platforms becoming a massive (free) marketplace to generate new leads and attract new patients, practices will need to remain current. There is too much competition for a practice not to be doing this already.

What extended duties would you recommend? It really does depend on what direction you would like to go down, but it is key to focus on something you enjoy and thoroughly research what extended duties are desired for paths such as orthodontic therapy or hygiene and therapy. Diamond Dental Staff are delivering workshops in practices and have partnered with many course providers to be able to guide our community members on what their options are.

We openly invite anyone considering career progression opportunities to speak to us about what courses are available and what extended duties would act as a stepping stone for their career development.

I found from my own experience of trying to get onto the hygiene course, that they kept moving the goal post. Research is key in this instance. If your aim is to grow within the practice, the three extended duties I would recommend is Dental Photography, Impression Taking and Treatment Coordinating, as these will support the team and really drive the practice forward.

I feel that, unless the practice has their own OPG/CBCT equipment, clinicians are more inclined to take their own intra-oral radiographs. So, in a general dental practice, I do not feel that a radiography certificate can be fully utilised.

The Government need to take action to improve oral health. They should promote a healthy diet consistently through multiple platforms, make oral health education a criteria in the school curriculum and make it mandatory for children to visit the dentist twice a year to reinforce oral hygiene instructions and diet advice.

I have always taken the responsibility to take people under my wing and look out for others. I enjoy connecting with other professionals and am always happy to hear from anyone that has lost their way a little and needs some advice or direction. I have met some wonderful people throughout this journey who have each inspired me and encouraged me along the way.

I think it is so important to have a great support network and have someone to look up to, whether it’s a clinician, manager or other dental nurses giving you that push. We could all do with someone like that – and being that support for someone else is incredibly rewarding. Everyone should have a Mentor.

It is just nice to see others doing well and growing in confidence. I have carried that over to my team. We all work closely with the members of our community to help build their confidence with interview techniques and offer our support throughout the recruitment process and thereafter in a friendly and supportive way.

You have to be a ‘people’s person’ as a dental nurse – you are meeting new people every day. You must be conscientious of both your patient and your clinician, always aiming to be one step ahead. Professionalism is key and excellent communication skills are vitaI. Not only are you representing your practice, but you are also representing our profession and your own reputation. Dentistry is a small world. You can either go really far or the complete opposite dependent on your professional behaviour and conduct.

What would I do differently? Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel I am exactly where I need to be due to what I have learnt along the way. I try to ride the waves and move with the times, being open to any opportunities that naturally presents itself and I am really happy to be able to share this journey with a really supportive, kind and dedicated team.


Emma Anastasi

Diamond Dental Staff


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