Meet the Member Who Helped Make Save Your Tooth Month Official in Iowa

An enthusiastic participant in last year’s Root Canal Awareness Week, Iowa’s Dr. Duane Van Nieuwenhuyzen was naturally one of our most avid proponents of Save Your Tooth Month this year – so much so, that he worked with Iowa State Senator Chris Cournoyer to make Save Your Tooth Month official in Iowa!

“It’s important for endodontists to first and foremost get involved in the process and promote the specialty whether it be in a society or local group like a study group,” he said. “If you have a seat at the table, you can increase awareness. We are in an incredible era for endodontics … We’re doing things general dentists or lawmakers may not know is possible. So, if we show them or join groups and associations—educate them—we can help advance the specialty.”

State Senator Cournoyer believes “it is important to have relationships with legislators to promote this kind of awareness and make sure you reach out and offer to be subject matter experts for them, so when policies are discussed related to your field, that you are part of the conversation and can provide meaningful input that can create good legislation,” she wrote in an email.

We recently were able to learn a bit more about Dr. Nieuwenhuyzen, and how the proclamation came about.

Dr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen was raised in Pipestone, Minn. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Saint Cloud State University. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Minnesota in 2006. It was during his time in dental school that he developed a keen interest in the specialty of endodontics and was accepted into the endodontic residency program. He obtained both his Master of Science degree and Certificate in Endodontics from the University of Minnesota in 2008.

“I feel that the training I received in my residency really laid the foundation for me to be successful in the military and private practice,” he said. “Dr. Scott McClanahan was a phenomenal mentor and teacher who pushed me to always strive for excellence. His dedication to training endodontics at the highest level is unmatched in my opinion.”

Dr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen served in the United States Navy from 2008 to 2012, and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He served as the Endodontic Specialty Leader for the 3rd Dental Battalion. During this time he shared his expertise with new dentists during their credentialing tours both in Okinawa and mainland Japan. In 2012, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal for outstanding professional achievement. His superb clinical performance also led to his selection as the 2011 Clinician of the Year and the winner of the “Thomas P. Carroll” Award for Clinical Excellence.

In addition to his involvement with the AAE, Dr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen stays educated on the latest advancements in the specialty of endodontics by maintaining memberships in the Iowa Association of Endodontics, American Dental Association and Iowa Dental Association.

He is married and has two sons. In fact, his wife, Sandy, is credited with helping him connect with State Senator Cournoyer, who the couple knows from their children’s school.

“I have to give credit to my wife,” Dr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen said. “She’s the marketing director for the practice. She’s the people person. She’s my better half. She’s a very outgoing person and fantastic and helps with promotions and she has great connections.

“She really helped with last year’s Superheroes of Saving Teeth campaign, which was great. Patients loved it and we wore capes. We had fun with it and the patients were very receptive to it. And so, when it came around this year and I saw the press releases and communications about connecting with legislatures … I thought this would be the next step for me.”

Why go to your representative? “Public awareness of what’s available and endodontics, if it’s well done, has phenomenal success rates,” Dr. Van Nieuwenhuyzen said. “And that’s the key, as specialists raising the bar to say—if this is well-done treatment, your teeth can last you a really long time.”

That’s a message we can all get behind!