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Meet Gemma Forsythe, dental nurse and Dental Protection member

Post date: 11/04/2022 | Time to read article: 5 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 25/04/2022

Get to know registered dental nurse and Instagrammer, Gemma Forsythe, as she discusses her career in nursing and why to her, being a member of Dental Protection is vital.
 Gemma Forsythe

Hi Gemma! Can you tell you tell us a little about how you started out in dental nursing?

I started my dental nursing training in December 2017, and I qualified in 2020. I did originally want to be a nurse but then I had my child, and the hours were just so long, that I turned to dental nursing as I still get to help and be there for people without working crazy shifts. When I discovered dental nursing, I just applied for a trainee role in a practice near me and ended up getting it! I’ve loved it ever since and it’s a passion that has really grown. I was never interested in teeth before, but I immediately got into it and I enjoy it still!The dentist that I work with provides Invisalign and he does a lot of composite bonding. It's so heart-warming because you're seeing the same patients over and over, so you build up that trusting relationship. You eventually then get to see the really satisfying results of the treatment and a patient finally getting like the smile they've always wanted.

What would you say motivates you the most at work?

I always want to do better, to support my clinician and to support my patients. I want them to walk out knowing that they were fully supported and feel that they were at ease in the chair. I know it's very scary and an invasive experience for some people because we can be so in their face and they don't really know what's going on. If someone feels that they have the support they need while in the chair then that's my job well done.

You touched on how it can be quite a stressful time for patients. We can all have some insecurities about our teeth. How do you help people overcome that anxiety?

I just remind people that it's all about your health more than anything. I think now in the age of Instagram where just see these perfect white teeth all the time, everyone seems to be getting composite bonding and Invisalign to make their smile perfect. But people need to remember that first and foremost, a healthy mouth is important. 

If you can come to the dentist and you haven't been in 10 years to get your teeth checked, then that's a massive achievement. You shouldn't be worrying about ‘are they white enough?’, ‘are they straight enough?’, most importantly are your teeth healthy? A lot of people come in and they will have gum disease, or they need fillings, but all they want is teeth whitening because it makes for a better appearance. 

Would you say that the increasing popularity of cosmetic treatments is making your job harder, or they actually help people take that first step in booking a much-needed appointment? 

I actually think it’s a bit of both. I think it's hard sometimes to tell somebody that they need all these fillings and other work done first before the work that they actually want!  But on the other hand, some people who really want the cosmetic done will come for a check-up and then that opens up those conversations to how they can better their oral health, which is good.

What would you say are the challenges that dental nurses are facing today? 

It's always been the same and it's the challenge of fighting for the recognition and the rewards that we deserve as dental nurses. We have a professional title, we pay our GDC fee, we have our indemnity, so why does the pay and the recognition not reflect that professional title? I just think it's really silly. If you go on to Google and you search a dental nurse’s salary, you’ll see that what you could earn is being completely falsely advertised. 

During COVID we sadly lost experienced nurses, not necessarily due to COVID-19 itself, but I think it was kind of the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for a lot of them. They were feeling a bit frustrated and annoyed so many just felt that it was time to just to leave the profession together and do something else.

You qualified in 2020, how has COVID-19 impacted your career so far? 

Well, COVID-19 significantly changed our work in practice. It changed how we see patients, it changed our how we clean and our new AGPs, but they soon became second nature to us. They’ve been in place for so long that we are just used to it now. It was hard at the start to adjust to the new guidelines, but I think now everyone is sort of scared to go back to how it was before!

Because we hadn’t been doing certain procedures for so long and that I had only qualified at the start of 2020, for me to remember how to do crown patch root canals for example, it felt like I was a trainee all over again. I really felt like I had to learn everything again before going back into surgery. 

How did the pandemic impact the overall patient experience? 

I don't think I had any specific challenges myself, but I know that the reception staff found it hard to explain to people that they couldn’t come in for a check-up yet and that we were prioritising urgent cases. People were so nervous because they hadn’t been to the dentist in two years and were maybe worried that they were going to need lots of fillings or that their gums were bleeding, for example. It was definitely harder on reception to explain the new system we had in place. 

Dental Protection supports dental nurses by protecting their career and reputation from legal claims and complaints. Why did you become a member? 

I think all professionals occasionally get that thought in the back of their mind of “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing this correctly?” I'm very early on in my career, and luckily, I haven't had any issues as of yet, but I do feel safe in the knowledge that I am protected by Dental Protection and knowing that I will always have access to a dentolegal advice line that I can call. It’s great that it’s open 24/7 in an emergency. It just means that if something happened to me during work I wouldn't have to wait until business hours the next day and I could talk someone about it. I can speak to someone and get the reassurance and the advice that I need at the time.

You are an oral health educator on Instagram. How did you get into that? 

It originally started because I did an oral health education course though I qualified in 2021, I couldn’t visit schools to teach oral health due to the pandemic. I set it up just so that I could share those really important oral health messages, but as it turns out, my followers were more interested in what I did at work and what it was like to be a dental nurse, so I gradually began to share more about that.

It’s helped me connect with so many other dental care professionals and it’s given me loads of opportunities to write articles too. I get lots of messages from people who want to be dental nurses, those who are still in training and need help with coursework to messages from people who want to go to the dentist but are really nervous about visiting. 

I even get a few messages from people who want to be a dental nurse on Instagram and they always ask me if they need to have perfect teeth to do so. My answer is always, no, absolutely not!

To follow Gemma’s day-to-day experiences as a dental nurse, head to @dentalnursegem on Instagram and read their latest blog at here.


If you’re not a member yet, and interested in joining Dental Protection go




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