Edge browser users:
To download Word, Excel or PowerPoint files please right-click on the file you wish to download, and select 'Save link as...'

What's it like being a... dental nurse with an interest in oral health promotion? Marijka Barber

Blog Author Marijka Barber

Blog Date 09/07/2019

​Marijka Barber is a dental nurse and works as part of a team delivering oral health education outreach activities to children and adults across Norfolk. She tells us why she is passionate about oral health promotion…



My alarm goes off…

I don't set an alarm I have three children! The youngest being 11 months and will awake around 5:00am onwards, so every morning is an early one!

I get up and feed my youngest while watching BBC breakfast. He goes down for a nap at 7am which gives me 45 minutes to get myself ready for the day, by which point my other two children are awake so its breakfasts and school uniforms on.

My parents help with childcare and get to my house at 7:55am. I'm out the door by 8am and normally arrive at work by 8:15am, where I grab my daylist and head straight to the kitchen for a coffee.


I'm responsible for...

I am one of a team of four Oral Health Educators at 'The Happy Smiles Club' – a free Oral Health Promotion Service set up by my practice to provide education, advice and training in various settings across Norfolk.

We base our advice on the Oral Health Tool Kit.

We aim our service at children but we welcome adults and will discuss periodontal disease and demonstrate effective interdental cleaning techniques for the patient to implement.

I can apply fluoride varnish on prescription of a dentist and discuss the hidden sugar content in foods and drinks, explaining the effects these can have on teeth.

I got the job!

I was 15 when I started dental nursing. Eighteen years later I'm still working at the same practice. Having grabbed this opportunity with both hands I haven't looked back!

I trained in house completing NVQ level 3 in Oral Health Care and gaining post certificate qualifications in Dental Radiography, impression taking, fluoride application and last year, I completed the BDA course in Oral Health Education.


My typical day…

On Tuesdays I run an Oral Health Prevention Clinic at our Great Yarmouth site. During the day I will see a range of patients that have been referred by a dentist; from children with high caries rates, teenagers with fixed braces and poor plaque control, adults with periodontal disease, to those that need advice on keeping their dentures clean. No day is ever the same!

My second working day is for visits and catching up on emails, telephone calls and getting organised for our next visit or event (there is always something to do). 

We regularly visit nurseries, schools, and children's centres. We also visit care homes and vulnerable groups – providing training to carers and oral health advice to those who may not have the opportunity to access a dentist. These in the past have included The Salvation Army and an Irish Travellers site.

The worst part of my job

Poor oral health impacts a child's ability to sleep, eat, play and is a leading cause of hospital admissions in older children. Oral health is therefore a fundamental part of overall health and wellbeing so when children are not healthy, this affects their ability to develop and thrive.

Great Yarmouth is classed as one of the country's most deprived areas and as a mummy myself, it is tough when children walk into my clinic with rampant caries and neglected oral health.

The best part of my job



Knowing that I am making a difference!

It's great when patients make a change in their oral health habits; from changing their tooth brushing technique and seeing the effects, like their gums no longer bleeding when they brush.

What's your biggest achievement to date?

As a team I am proud of how far we have come together. The work we do is free, and we receive no funding. We average 10 visits a month across Norfolk and this is steadily increasing.

The club is continuously evolving. We all share the same vision and are dedicated to the mission. This creates a family environment where everybody is there for each other and we all learn from each other.


After work

I finish at 5:30pm and am home by 6:00pm. My parents are waiting to 'hand over' the children after doing the school runs and tea. Then its baths and reading. Me and my husband will then have tea together (normally in front of the TV) and we will talk about our day.

I'll squeeze in a check of our social media (@happysmilesclub) and emails before bed.

My Plan B

Dentistry is all I know so I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

I strongly believe there needs to be more awareness of OHE as a qualification and more appreciation of just how beneficial it is to patients and the community. If you're thinking of signing up for the qualification, do it! You won't be disappointed. 

marijka-barber-portrait-125px.jpgMarijka Barber, dental nurse



BDA support for DCPs 

We offer a range of courses for DCPs, and our CPD Hub provides online training courses and free CPD courses for all dental nurses and other dental professionals. Our hub is designed to help staff fulfil training needs and meet CPD requirements. Topics covered include Child Protection, Decontamination and Data Protection Officer training - register with us to find out more.