Texas A&M School of Dentistry

On Campus

Why I teach

Professor Eric Fox

Eric Fox is a professor at the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Austin College and a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from Texas Woman’s University. He is also an alumnus of this school, receiving his Master of Science in Dental Hygiene Education in 2005.

How long have you been part of the school? I’ve been here about 22 years. I came here for my master’s degree around the year 2000, and I stayed! I came here because they had the master’s program.

Why did you decide to teach at Texas A&M School of Dentistry? I was a hygienist already for about a year, out in private practice, and I decided I wanted to get a master’s degree. At the time I didn’t know I would get into education; I just wanted to have a backup plan in case I wanted to change. I thought I might as well do it now, while I’m young and fresh out of school. I really enjoyed teaching here in the clinic. It was part of the instruction that I got for my master’s. It just grew from there, teaching more and more part-time. I did that part-time teaching until 2016; then I went full-time.

I remember in dental hygiene school one of my faculty mentioned teaching to me and said, “Oh, you might later enjoy it,” or something to that effect. At the time, as a student, I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was thinking about whatever my next test was and getting good grades. After about a year, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a backup plan. I started here and just fell in love with it! My first semester here was for my coursework, to teach in clinic, and I really liked it. It grew from there. From one day a week, to two, two became three, and pretty soon I was here more than I was in my private practice.

What do you teach? Dental anatomy this semester, which is almost self-explanatory. We cover the anatomy of the teeth, root anatomy, a lot of the basics and technical jargon. I also teach an intro to dentistry class. That’s basically where students get introduced to the different specialties of dentistry and learn the difference between a periodontist and an endodontist, that kind of thing. Next semester I teach dental materials, so they’ll learn about materials and some procedures they might be doing in a dental setting. Dental impressions, sealants, whitening, things like that. And then other times I’m still in the clinic.

What are some differences between teaching in the clinics and the classroom? Up until 2016, I was a clinical instructor; now I teach in the classroom and clinics. When you have certain classes, you’re teaching to a set of learning objective. I teach dental anatomy and intro to dentistry courses this semester, and I teach a dental materials course in the spring. In the clinic setting, we try to put the things we’ve taught in the classroom into practice … bringing it all together. Our students are actually treating patients, so it is different. In clinic, I have to incorporate a lot more courses, not just my own.

Why did you specialize in dental hygiene? That’s a good question. Prior to dental hygiene, I had a previous degree in biology, so I had some science background. I didn’t want to go to dental school in terms of being in school that much longer, and I’ve also always enjoyed working with my hands. Dental hygiene was introduced to me by my family dentist. I did some observing in his office and decided it was something I thought I’d enjoy doing. And I did!

What is your favorite part of teaching? The interactions with the students. Especially, whether it’s in class or the clinic, when they get that “lightbulb” moment. You tell them what they need, and you can almost literally see it. You’re like, “Yes, they get it!” I try to guide them but let them figure it out on their own, not just feed them the answers. Hopefully they can put it together. That’s a good feeling; that’s a big thing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for students considering a teaching career? You have to love doing it. You want that passion to get those lightbulb moments for the students to figure things out. I’ve been here a while, so I must like it, right? I really enjoy it here, and hopefully I’ll be here as many more years as I choose to be.