Corporal Sherwin Chance talks about his role as a soldier, dental nurse and a dental nurse instructor at the Defence Medical Academy

In the military, a dental nurse’s job transcends clinical scrubs and the four walls of the surgery. This article gives a unique insight into my role as a soldier, dental nurse and dental nurse instructor, effecting change at the highest level. Above all, it highlights the opportunities available to you should the interest arise along your career pathway.


I joined the military as a combat soldier in 2008 (Queen’s Guards), deployed on multiple operations overseas – most notably Afghanistan in 2009. Upon completion of my five years as an infantry soldier, I decided to transition into a transferable trade role – and dental nursing was my first choice. The military paid for all of my training and ensured the mechanism for support and mentoring was present throughout my pathway.

The opportunity for travel is quite diverse. On completion of my course, we had individuals posted as dental nurses to Cyprus, Germany, Belgium and various locations across the UK. Being paid to travel and work in the sun is such a hard life, I must admit!

Since qualifying, I’ve attained a wide array of qualifications. They include:

  • Level 3 Diploma first line management
  • Intermediate practice manager
  • Managing civilian certificate
  • Numeracy level 2 (mathematics)
  • Defence trainer supervisor
  • Defence train the trainer (staff)
  • Defence train the trainer (instructor)
  • Trim practitioner
  • IOSH certificate.

Working in the military has been a privilege and serving Queen and country is the pinnacle. Dentistry within the military is not financially driven, so the quality of care is highly ethical and patient focused, which makes the working environment pleasant. In comparison to our civilian counterparts, the pay is considerably better and the added benefits of promotion, subsidised housing, opportunity to travel, working overseas, adventure training and so on makes life in the military a desired wonder. Above all, the camaraderie and friendship you nurture is priceless and lasts a lifetime.

There are plenty of opportunities for public engagement at dental centre level, such as at health fairs, symposiums and local schools. If you are interested in promoting the roles within the military, there are opportunities to work in the army recruitment team – once you’ve established yourself as a competent dental nurse and gained some experience in the modus operandi of your respective branch.

I work as a dental nurse instructor at the Defence Medical Academy (DMA). It’s a tri-service organisation, delivering internal individual Phase 2 and 3 medical training. I have outlined some of my responsibilities.

Dental nurse instructor

Delivering training towards the National Diploma in dental nursing to all Phase 2 dental nurse training.

Assisting the Phase 2 manager with the production of the course timetable in accordance with course documentation and availability of resources.

Acting as Internal Moderator for the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, providing advice and support to students, mentors, witnesses and employing dental officers.

Ensuring safety, discipline and welfare of all course trainees during lessons.

Carrying out duties, assisting the orderly sergeant to ensure the welfare and discipline of all trainees during silent orders.

Managing time effectively to ensure deadlines are met for marking and internal moderating to enable registration for the National Examination.

Reviewing training objectives, learning content for lesson planning, lesson delivery and student administration.

Additional duties – under 18 mentor and Defence Trainer Supervisor (optional) – requires training.

This opportunity didn’t happen by ‘Chance’ – pardon the pun. I intentionally put myself forward for all opportunities beyond the daily grind. I volunteered for a six-month trawl into the Training Management Division (TMD) in Defence Medical Services (Whittington) as a temporary augmentee, drafted in to assist with the fluctuating number of medical trainees held within TMD, and awaiting input onto their bespoke medical course. I used this opportunity to deliver a range of subjects – from oral health presentations to six section battle drills. I was able to use my operational experience from my infantry years, emphasising the crucial link with operational effectiveness and dental fitness. This opportunity led to my current role as a phase 2 dental instructor. After my combat operational tour in Afghanistan and the Royal Wedding (guards street lining), being a dental nurse instructor is one of the most impactful assignments I’ve undertaken. You are training, mentoring and influencing and have the potential to span a full career. It’s a very rewarding role! I strongly recommend a career in the military as a dental nurse and, if you are interested in joining, please see the information in box.

Dental nursing: key opportunities in the Army

  • Earn a competitive salary and non-contributory pension.
  • Opportunities for funded CPD.
  • With promotion, you can become a practice manager and move away from a clinical role.
  • Take on challenges, make new friends and enjoy adventurous training and sport.
  • Join as a qualified dental nurse or train as a dental nurse through the Army.

Training for the role

Step 1

You’ll start with your initial military training which will teach you how to be a soldier – this will cover everything from fieldcraft to how to handle a rifle. Your training will take place at Pirbright or Winchester and will last for 14 weeks.

Step 2

Commence training in Lichfield where the delivery of the national curriculum takes place. Clinical training is then undertaken in a DPHC dental centre elsewhere in the UK. The course covers anatomy, physiology, surgery and infection control. You also learn to prepare dental materials, give advice on disease prevention and process X-rays. It all prepares you to sit your National Diploma in Dental Nursing exam. If you are already qualified, you are assigned directly to a dental centre on completion of Phase 1 training. For more, go to

Fact file

Age: 17 years and nine months – 35 years and six months


QUALIFIED: Qualified dental nurse with active registration with the General Dental Council (GDC). May also be at the point of completing dental nurse training.

UNQUALIFIED: 2 GCSEs Grade C and above, including English Language.