Maintain Your Smile: A Comfy Setting with Lots of Technology

This Rockford dental practice has long been known for its comfy atmosphere, but it’s also making a name for itself with a solid lineup of tools that make a visit to the dentist easier, comfier and more affordable than ever before.

Left to Right: Dr. Lionel Gibson, Dr. Todd Stern, Dr. Marshall Valadez, Dr. Heather Schick, Dr. John Halversen Jr. and Dr. William Shold work out of Maintain Your Smile Dental’s Rockford office. Dr. Mike Wattles meets patients in the practice’s Rochelle, Ill., office.

If you’re a new patient at Maintain Your Smile (MYS), a full-service dentist office in Rockford and Rochelle, Ill., you’ll most likely meet the iTero.

Just like the iPhone is a top performer in the phone industry, the iTero is one of the best – and coolest – tools in dentistry.

The hip name of this intraoral scanner lives up to its actual task: to take digital pictures of a patient’s teeth and gums, allowing dentists not only to easily spot trouble areas – like wear and tear or shifting teeth – but also to stop using the traditional, gloopy process of bite-down-on-a-mold impressions.

“An iTero picture is like an impression, but it’s on a screen, so you can move it around,” says hygienist Paula Sechler. “Bite pressure, cracks in teeth – you can see everything. Everyone in our office is proficient in using this. Patients love how we can explain something and they can see a picture of their own mouth. It’s just part of us wanting to give the best education to our patients. Those days of holding a little X-ray up to the light are long gone.”

While iTeros aren’t new – Maintain Your Smile has had the wand-like devices for several years – the office upgraded all five of its scanners to 5-D at the end of last year.

Maintain Your Smile continually invests in new technologies like the iTero 5-D scanner. It creates a digital scan of the patient’s mouth and helps to identify trouble spots such as cracks or shifting teeth.

“You can advance the scanners so they can pick up decay – they can scan for actual cavities,” says Sechler. “That’s something new that we just started doing.”

The office also recently upgraded to a cone beam 3-D X-ray machine, which allows dentists to see the width and depth of a patient’s bone to determine if implants are feasible. In years past, those images would have required a referral.

And just this year, the was added to the digital workflow. With this technological upgrade, MYS can fabricate crowns in-house, using high-strength zirconia that’s the same quality of professional labs.

“We’re able to have more quality control,” says MYS founder Dr. Todd Stern. “A lot of these things have just been perpetual, the constant updates on technology. We just wanted to stay on the forefront.”

The seven dentists at MYS, who practice at 1110 S. Mulford Road in Rockford and 1001 Lincoln Highway in Rochelle, offer all aspects of dentistry, including teeth cleanings and extractions, fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, root canals, teeth whitening and bonding, veneers, implants, traditional braces and Invisalign.

But with top tools like the iTero 5-D scanners, 3-D X-ray imaging, in-house mill, take-home sleep studies and additional training, the dentists at MYS also can place and restore implants, prepare and deliver crowns faster, treat sleep apnea and more.

“With this technology, we’ve stayed efficient, and that’s kept our cost kind of mid-ground in the community, so that’s a very important aspect,” Stern says. “We have all this technology, but we’re providing it at a reasonable cost. And we’re still a private practice. We’re owned by the dentists who work here. That’s beneficial because us doctors are the ones talking with the patients and making decisions about their treatment. We’re not having corporate overseers pushing us.”

Having the latest dental technology available to her is an asset that Stephanie Pearson appreciates. But it’s not the main reason she and her husband, two children, parents and other friends continue to visit MYS.

The Rockford native has been a MYS patient, specifically with Stern, since she was in braces as a child, and the doctor made a positive impression that has lasted throughout the years.

Pearson was so comfortable with Stern that she invited him to her high school graduation and her wedding. Today, her 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son see him for their dental appointments.

“He was just very gentle and just kept making sure I was OK,” Pearson recalls of her earliest visits. “As a kid, braces can be kind of traumatizing. He’s just super nice. He cares about the patients and their well-being. My daughter, she’s got braces now, and he’s been really good with her. He explains things in a way that you can understand and just makes it easier all around.”

What’s most important at MYS is the doctor-patient relationships, Stern says.

“One of the things that we try extremely hard to do is, once you’re in our practice, unless it’s a time-sensitive emergency, you get to see the same doctor and same hygienist when you come in,” he says. “I like it because I get to know my patients.”

Doctors and patients can make better dental health decisions together when they’re on the same page, he adds, and it’s a philosophy his entire team employs.

“That’s the biggest thing I love about our office: The doctors all have the same message,” says Sechler, who has been with the team for more than 16 years. “They’re all about the patient and giving them the best options. We’re about their health so they can make informed decisions about their dental health, and we use a lot of technology to do that.”

Dr. Lionel Gibson and the other dentists of Maintain Your Smile use the latest advancements to improve the patient experience.

Despite the big-time technology, MYS feels like a small-town practice. All of the dentists live in the Rockford area; some are natives. And though the Rochelle office was added later, in the 25 years since Stern started MYS, the Rockford office has never moved from its original location on Mulford Road.

“They’ve remodeled, but it still has that small, family dentist feel,” says Pearson.

MYS likes to offer the best of both worlds – a close-knit community vibe with the latest and greatest tools and trends of the trade – and it’s always been that way.

For example, MYS still has patients from the dentists who retired before Stern and Dr. John Halversen Jr. took over.

“I do think that speaks volumes to the confidence of our patient base,” Stern says.

And the practice is the longest-standing Invisalign provider in the Rockford area, proving that MYS was – and continues to be – on point with the latest updates in the field.

“It’s an exciting field to be in because there are so many new changes,” Sechler says. “MYS keeps up on everything, we stay trained and informed, and we’re all on the same page. The organization, dentists and managers have done that with outstanding leadership.” ❚