Our Blog
By Dr. Bill Kuttler, DDS
April 09, 2018
Tags: HPV   oral cancer   vaccination  

I remember when I was scheduled for my first colonoscopy, I was reluctant to proceed with it.  My doctor looked me in the eye and said “Colon cancer is the only cancer we can truly prevent, and we can do it by detecting polyps in your colon and removing them before they can develop into cancer.”  His comments had a huge impact on me, and my colonoscopy was performed the next day – and several polyps were removed.  Many years later I have colonoscopies scheduled when my doctors tell me to.  Yep, it’s a small hassle.  But based on the number of polyps I’ve had removed, it seems like a really small price to pay.

Having your children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) is also a way to prevent cancers.  Research has shown that 2.5% of adolescents have HPV, and that 1 in 9 American men have oral HPV.  While HPV vaccinations are probably not quite as effective as colonoscopies, they are far easier.  The statistics I’ve read indicate the vaccinations are probably preventing 90% of related cancers.

HPV causes 70% of oralpharyngeal cancers.  While happily the numbers of oralpharyngeal cancer aren’t enormous, HPV causes about 31,500 cases of cancer in the US in both genders.  (While not all of those cancers are oralpharyngeal, I’m all about preventing ALL cancers.  So, if vaccinations can prevent 70% of those linked to HPV, that strikes me as huge!)

I suspect that there are people reading this who are against all vaccinations.  While I don’t agree with that perspective because I believe the safety of vaccinations is incredibly high, I’m not going to spend any ink arguing against that position.  I simply ask that they study the research and the options.

What I know is that when I first became a dentist, people who developed oral cancers were generally older adults, mostly males, who had smoked and consumed an above average amount of alcohol.  Today, the average age of people developing oral cancers is plummeting.  A significant percentage of those people don’t use tobacco and most of them don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol either.  Further, most of them test positive for HPV.

For a large number of years the majority of HPV related cancers were cervical cancer in women.  Today, with HPV related cancers, oralpharyngeal cancer has overtaken cervical cancer.  Also for many years it seemed that most HPV related cancers were in women.  Today men are four times more likely than women to be diagnosed with oralpharyngeal cancer.  In less than 40 years, many of the statistics have been turned upside down – I find that both amazing and terrifying!

To make this even worse, many of the oralpharyngeal cancers related to HPV are found in and around the tonsils and are often far more difficult to detect than the more “traditional” types of oral cancer.  That translates to the reality that by the time those are detected, they are larger and are more likely to have spread – making treatment far more difficult and less likely to succeed.

In the beginning HPV vaccinations were encouraged more for girls than boys.  Today, I would want all of my children to be vaccinated.  The recommended age is 11-12, but the vaccinations can be given as early as age 9, and it is most effective if given before the age of 13.  Having said that, if your children have not been vaccinated or if you are a young adult, vaccinations can be given up to the age of 26, and they will still provide significant benefits.

I encourage you to have a discussion about HPV vaccinations with your medical doctor.  April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month – this seems like a GREAT time to take action!  Don’t just be aware of it, PREVENT IT!  (And tell your medical doctor that I sent you.)

By Dr. Bill Kuttler, DDS
February 26, 2018
Tags: smile   February  

It’s February – the month for lovers.  It’s also Dental Health Month which is essentially focused on the awesome goal of helping children have healthier and more comfortable mouths.  It’s also American Heart Month, Black History Month, and the National Organ Donation Event is on Valentine’s Day.  For a great many people I know, the most important part of February is that it is the SHORTEST month of the year – the one they celebrate when it’s over since that signals that spring is coming....

So no matter how you view it, there’s actually a lot going on in this month beyond simply waiting for it to be over!  While I don’t ski or do other active outdoor winter activities, I happen to LOVE winter.  When I looked out this morning to see 4" of fresh snow, I truly loved it.  I think it is awesomely beautiful.  And I still felt that way after spending two or more hours this morning plowing the road for the subdivision I live in and shoveling my driveway (and I still have half of that to go...!)

Which leads me back to that word “love”.  The Webster’s dictionary I have sitting here offers many definitions of the word, and the one that I like the most is also most fitting for what I’m writing about: “Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion”.  That’s how I like to see people feeling about their smile – enthusiastic about it, devoted to caring for it and keeping it healthy and attractive, and being attached to it in a very positive way.

Sadly, my experience is that many people either aren’t happy with their smile or want it changed in some way or other...but don’t make the commitment to do so.  How many people do you know that you never see smile?  Or whenever they do, they have their hands in front of their mouths so you can’t see their actual smile.

The reason I’m asking this question in February – the month of lovers – is that I personally believe that people need to feel good about themselves and love themselves before they can truly love others.  Which leads me to believe that before they can form honest connections with another, they need to have that connection with themselves.

Of course we can fake out other people and work around the things that we don’t like about ourselves, but we are most authentically ourselves when we’re happy with who we really are.  We can more effectively share our joy with others when our smile shines through.  I also believe that lots of the beauty of a smile comes from within each of us – we don’t need to have perfect teeth to have a beautiful smile.  But for some people they really want to have a beautiful smile so it truly represents who they feel they are.  And that’s awesome.

My experience in helping people get that smile is that what each person expects or wants is very different while almost everyone is reluctant to ask us about it because they are afraid of what it will cost.  While some situations do require very extensive treatment that involves a substantial investment of time, money, and energy, some desires are easily fulfilled.  I treated someone last week who was convinced that his problem was going to require several thousand dollars to resolve.  We did it for him for a few hundred dollars, and he was both stunned and thrilled.

That’s the time that we have fun – bringing smiles to people’s faces!  And what it really takes is good communication.  If you don’t like something about your smile, talk to us about it.  Get ideas from us and then let us work with you for solutions that fulfill your desires in ways that allow you to be able to have it done.  Then you can really be the “lover” you want to be whether it’s with your kids, your significant other, or some new acquaintance.  Most importantly, so you can fall in love all over again with your smile!

By Dr. Bill Kuttler, DDS
December 15, 2017
Tags: dentist   smiles   hugs   kindness   toys for tots   holidays  

As teeth chatter in the arriving cold weather, we see more smiles as people prepare for the Holiday season. It doesn't seem to matter what your religion ( or lack thereof ) is, almost everyone seems to get into the joy of celebrating at this time of the year. Although we live in turbulent times, that doesn't seem to stop most of us from expressing gratitude and joy.

Want a brighter smile? Call us. Want to prevent teeth from shattering due to the chattering? Call us. Want to make a New Years resolution revolving around better health? Make an appointment with us and we can help you include your oral health with the bigger plan. I and our team can help you in many important ways. So with that, I've done my job of promoting dental health and services -- on to more fun stuff!

One of the things I'm most grateful for is that over 40 years ago I decided that I wanted to be a dentist. As a result of that decision, off I went to college and dental school because just like Hermey the Elf, I knew that's what I wanted to do. While lots of things turned out differently than I expected, I'm still joy-filled and delighted that I made that choice way back then. I, and the wonderful team I work with get to help people every day. What an honor and a privilege that you have placed your trust us, and then you even thank us when we've done for you what we really love doing!

So what fills your heart with joy? I hope you'll pause in the midst of this busy and crazy time of the year to consider that question. Then, when you've come up with some answers, do MORE of it! Maybe even LOTS more of it! Partly because you deserve it, but perhaps even more than that, I notice that when people I'm around are filled with joy, everyone around them is more joyful as well. What a great way to give gifts that don't even cost a dime.

Smiles are free! Hugs are free! Kindness is almost always free! Maybe many of us want to receive something material for Christmas, especially kids, but usually a lot less is expected than what is received. I remember as a kid often having more fun playing with the boxes that the gifts came in than the gifts themselves. Spending time with people who maybe don't have family near them might be the best gift you give OR receive all year long. I know that when I've done that, I almost always walk away feeling better than when I arrived.

The ‘Santa Spirit really IS alive! Probably the greatest gift was given by Santa, or any of us, is to really listen to each other. (Something I'm still working at learning....)

As many of you know, we have a box in our office collecting for Toys for Tots. Yes, buying something to put in that box costs some money, but I also believe it helps some kids feel a little love and joy that maybe they wouldnt have felt otherwise. That can bring joy as well to those of us who contribute. Thanks to Bryce Parks and all of the volunteers who help him make that happen every year in Dubuque and they are gifts to so many!

So PLEASE have a joy-filled holiday, no matter what your spiritual beliefs are. I only hope part of your belief system includes Peace on Earth and Good Will to all Men, Women, and Children! I hope everyone reading this has many reasons to smile this season, and a blessed 2018!


Getting kids ready to return to school always seems to be a challenge.  Wrapping up summer activities, getting school supplies and clothes purchased, and rearranging everyone’s schedules is often difficult, to say the least!

And then, if you have a child entering kindergarten or 9th grade, there’s also the dental screening exam that may have escaped your parental radar.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find it fairly easy to keep track of things that I do every week or every month…or even every year.  But when I only need to do it twice in a ten-year span, I have a tough time remembering when I’m supposed to do it.

Since I’m a dentist, I could propose a solution to have the screening required every year so it would be easier to keep track of, but I doubt if many parents, let alone the school systems across the state, would be pleased with that solution!

Instead, let me simply stress the importance of these two examinations.  For many of you parents, who bring your children to us twice a year, getting these forms filled out is easy.  It may be as simple as calling us and asking us to fill out the form and send it to you.  You may find when you are in that we’ll remind you that the forms need to be filled out, and since we stock the forms, we’ll simply do it for your children as part of their regularly scheduled visit when we’re already monitoring their oral health, the growth, and development of their jaws and eruption of their teeth, etc. 

But for some other parents, for many, many reasons, you haven’t gotten your children in to see us as regularly as would be helpful for them and as you might have wished.  At least for you, the state requirement for having these forms filled out, helps ensure that your children are getting some care, and at fairly important intervals. 

While every child grows at a different rate, these two ages allow me and our hygienists an opportunity to monitor the eruption of the child’s teeth and their oral health and development.  Beyond that, it’s a chance to determine if there is any decay or oral disease present that we can deal with before it becomes painful for the child. 

Cavities are the most common childhood infection and certainly one of, if not the most frequent, causes of time lost from school due to pain or serious infection causing swelling, etc.  By detecting cavities before they are causing active problems, I can treat them early and fairly easily for your children.  That’s FAR better than having to treat a problem when the area is already infected and painful – especially for your child!  The other thing these exams allow for is to evaluate your children for sealants – coatings on their molars that help prevent cavities from happening.  That’s a GREAT deal for the kids!

So call us TODAY and get your child scheduled for an examination and any needed treatment. You’ll be glad you did when the rest of the school year goes along without any emergency dental visits, and it is certainly a good plan for preventing dental problems!

By Bill Kuttler, DDS
March 19, 2017

“Why do I need to go to the dentist every _____?”  You can fill in the blank – I hear that blank space filled with words ranging from “6 months”, “year” to leaving it totally blank so the response is actually, “Why do I ever need to go to the dentist?”  I think that’s a legitimate question, and I also believe that the answer varies tremendously based on the individual’s health and needs.

First, let me be clear: No one “needs” to go to the dentist.  There I said it, and some of my colleagues may come after me for that statement.  BUT (and you notice that word is in bold, capital letters), almost all people benefit from going, especially if they want to keep their mouths and the rest of their bodies in good health.  While there are probably a few folks who could keep their teeth and stay dentally healthy without ever going to a dentist, the number of those people is very low.  

What we really should be discussing are each individual’s desires.  Good health, clean and shiny teeth, fresh breath, keeping natural teeth for a lifetime, or simply the ability to eat and enjoy a good meal?  There are others who simply don’t seem to really care about these things.  For them, there is a further issue – systemic health.  If good overall health is important to you, so are regular visits to the dentist.  Indeed, even if someone has false teeth, regular visits are important to allow for early detection of possible cancers and other systemic diseases.

Regular visits to the dentist are now considered important enough that some medical policies are paying for people with diabetes to see their dentist four times per year.  Those companies do this because there is solid evidence that consistent dental care reduces the incidence of major medical problems!  That’s truly a case of dental care potentially saving someone’s life.  

So if you are one who wants to keep your mouth and the rest of you healthy and have a bright shiny smile, how often should you visit us?  As a first premise, that’s a question to discuss with us -- ask us how often you would benefit from periodic visits.  Then ask us for the reasoning behind that answer.  Many of us were raised with the idea of seeing our dentist twice a year and brushing our teeth twice a day.  I don’t know that either of those ideas is well supported by clinical evidence.  There are simply too many other factors.

Consider these factors: 

  • Do you currently have a high decay rate?  (For example, do you need fillings more than once per year?)  
  • Do you have a mouth full of old fillings and / or crowns?  (This is a good clue to your historic susceptibility to dental disease.)  
  • Have you had or do you currently have some form of gum disease?  If so, how severe is it, is there bone damage, and how easily do your gums bleed?  
  • What is your systemic health status?  
  • Do you have diabetes or other inflammatory-related diseases such as heart disease?  
  • If you have any of these diseases, how well controlled are they?  
  • Has your medical doctor recommended you see a dentist?  (This might happen because you are going to have surgery soon or because your physician suspects you have active dental problems.)
  • Are you pregnant?  (If so, you being in good dental health is really important for the health of your baby.)

After all those factors are carefully weighed, what is the final answer?  Most people do come for a visit two times a year.  That may be as much because they have a dental benefit plan that pays for two visits a year as for any other reason.  We have some clients in our practice that we plan to see about once a year, and sometimes that gets stretched out to once every eighteen months.  I’m comfortable with that interval when they have a very low incidence of dental problems, are in good systemic health, and take consistently excellent care of their mouths.  On the other end of that spectrum are the people who don’t take very good care of their mouths, whether they are systemically healthy or not.  We want to see those people every three or four months, and sometimes as frequently as every two months.  That allows us to help them maintain a better dental condition than they have been able to do for themselves. 

We also have a few of our clients that are healthy, both dentally and systemically, and simply want to come in every two to three months because they want stains cleaned off their teeth.  Some people really love how their mouth feels after having their teeth cleaned.  

So talk with us and let us work it out together!  Together, we can determine what is right for you!

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