San Diego Supervising Dentist helps Dental Hygiene students find balance
Dr. Howard Eagle, instructor and supervising dentist for the San Diego Dental Hygiene program, enjoys being the bearer of good news. A career as a Dental Hygienist “enables people to have various interests and the ability to pursue numerous career paths,” says Dr. Eagle. “One of the advantages is you can work as few or as many hours as you want.”
Most Dental Hygienists have set appointments within a dental practice, and they can work full-time or on a part-time basis with multiple offices. “The hours they lock in are in their control,” he says.
Howard Eagle has been an educator most of his adult life in his chosen profession. He joined the Navy as a Commissioned Officer at age 25, right out of dental school. He eventually found himself training others in his specialty of Prosthodontics, which provides full-mouth rehabilitation, including implants, dentures, crowns and bridges.
When Dr. Eagle retired from the military in February 2013, he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his drill. “I could have fully retired, but thought I had a little more to give back,” he says. “I didn’t want to open up a practice, so I looked at other options.”
Just a month later, he found SJVC’s about-to-be-launched Dental Hygiene program in San Diego and came on board as the Dental Hygiene Supervising Dentist and instructor. He joined an enthusiastic staff and faculty in full preparation for students pinning their career dreams on their efforts.
“It was just a shell when I got here; the walls weren’t even up, just gray cement,” he says. “Four months after I started, it was a full-functioning clinic.”
Dr. Eagle has a lot of confidence in what the Dental Hygiene program and he, specifically, want to give students. “I hope they build on what they’ve learned here,” he says. “This is not just a trade school; we don’t just teach students what to do, but how to grow and achieve greater success throughout their careers.”
The Dental Hygiene program is intense, and students must learn to balance school and homework with their lives at home. When those stresses build up, students can find understanding and guidance from staff and faculty. “There are always issues when you’re under stress and have a lot of things happening at one time,” says Eagle. “We try to help them through those things, help with strategies and tools to find the solution for themselves.”
The intensity of the Dental Hygiene program is often broken with the fun times and laughter that comes naturally with some of the newly learned and practiced procedures and techniques.
“Teaching students to do impressions on each other is always comical,” says Dr. Eagle. The gummy material that has to be placed over teeth far back into the mouth can be a little invasive to the throat. “Some have a little difficulty with things in the backs of their throat…that reflux instinct.”
Then, there are the injections practices. “Watching them give local anesthetic for the first time; there’s always a lot of drama,” he smiles. So far no one has hit the ground in a faint.
Dr. Eagle’s instruction and guidance provide a strong base for the Dental Hygiene program to thrive. “Dr. Eagle’s attitude is positive and his temperament even-keeled,” says colleague Cheryl Underwood. “The students appreciate his teaching style and achieve high scores in his classes.”
Dr. Eagle has more than just high hopes for his students’ employment prospects. He has facts. He quotes a recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune that projects a growing need for well-trained Dental Hygienists because of a direct connection between unhealthy teeth and gums with poor body health.
“Ongoing research linking oral health to general health will continue to spur demand for preventative dental services, which are often provided by Dental Hygienists. Studies indicate that teeth and gums burdened with the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can initiate cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes and dementia.”
In addition to cleaning and polishing teeth and examining patients for oral disease, Dental Hygienists also educate their patients on proper oral hygiene and the prevention of serious disease.
This is a career that allows its practitioner to not only provide a much-needed service to the community but enjoy a life more comfortably balanced with personal time.
No one knows that better than Dr. Eagle. He and his wife Pamela and their sons Michael, Adam and Zachary have shared world travels. Next month, Dr. Eagle and Pamela will venture to Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia, and next year, to Australia and New Zealand.
A career in dentistry can open new worlds to those fortunate enough to make it their own.
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