MOUNT ZION — When Marcie Naber goes to the dentist, she's visiting family.
"It's like you become part of the family when you're here," Naber said this week before an appointment at Stone Dental in Mount Zion, southeast of Decatur.
Naber has been treated by three generations of Drs. Stone.
"I've been coming here since I was in third or fourth grade," said Naber, 46, of Decatur. "I've seen Daddy Stone (Dr. Howard Stone), Young Doctor Stone (Dr. Charles Stone) and Dr. Brittany (Dr. Brittany Stone Keck-Flory)."
Stone Dental, at 108 Ashland Ave., with the recent addition of Keck-Flory, is the latest general dental practice in Illinois to expand to a third generation in the same family.
While it isn't common, there are other third-generation dental practices in Illinois, according to the Illinois State Dental Society.
Among them is Chrisman & Wyse Cosmetic & General Dentistry, 207 S. Prospect Road, Bloomington. It was started in 1922 in downtown Bloomington by Dr. E.W. Chrisman, who was joined in 1946 by his son, Dr. Tony Chrisman, who was joined in 1976 by his son, Dr. Jay Chrisman.
"It's been very rewarding," said Chrisman. "For years, I saw patients who saw my grandfather, then my father and followed me into my practice. We've had generations of patients.
"The value is the continuity of care," he said. "Patients know to expect excellent care and timely service."
With fewer independent dental practices, three-generation practices will become more uncommon, said Charles Stone, 58, of Mount Zion, who is Howard Stone's son and Keck-Flory's father.
That makes the addition of Keck-Flory, 26, of Mount Zion, even more noteworthy, he said.
"It's very exciting," Naber said. "We watched Brittany grow up."
"I work in my grandpa's old operatory," Keck-Flory said. "I redid it. I'm in grandpa's old room but now it's mine. It's a nice feeling of home-ness."
Howard Stone, 89, of Decatur, a Clinton native, pursued dentistry because a family friend was a dentist, he enjoyed science and worked well with his fingers. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Chicago College of Dentistry, he served in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps before opening an independent general dentistry practice in Clinton in 1955.
He moved the practice to Decatur in 1962 and was joined in 1986 by his son, Charles Stone, after he graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in Alton.
"I had an aptitude for biology and dentistry," Charles Stone said of his career choice.
"I also admired my dad," he said. "When I would go out in the community, people would know my dad and he was very well thought of. People would say 'No offense, but I hate going to the dentist. But I love going to your dad.'
"The key to being a good dentist is to realize that people are attached to the teeth," Charles Stone said.
The Stones relocated the practice to its current location in 1993. While Howard Stone retired in December 1999, he worked part-time until three years ago with the Macon County Health Department dental clinic and with Dental Sealants and More, a program to provide preventive dental care to children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches.
Howard Stone also served 40 years on the Macon County Board of Health and helped start that county health department's dental clinic, where Charles Stone also treated patients.
Charles Stone chaired Give Kids a Smile Day to provide cleanings and fillings to children whose families couldn't otherwise afford it.
"I saw the need at the health department," he said. "What we decided to do as a dental society was to bring kids to our offices and treat them free of charge."
For some families, the problem isn't lack of access but lack of appreciation of the benefits of good oral health, the Stones said.
"The perception is if it doesn't hurt, there's nothing wrong," Charles Stone said. "But preventive care is necessary to prevent pain."
Keck-Flory graduated from SIU School of Dental Medicine in June and joined her father in practice shortly thereafter.
"I watched my dad and grandpa," she said. "And I'm kind of a talker so I needed to be in a medical profession with people where I could talk."
"I think taking out decay and restoring it back is really fun," she said.
Charles Stone said, "That little act will keep people from being absolutely miserable."
Over the years, Stone Dental has kept up to date with dental technological advances but the focus hasn't changed.
"We have real relationships with our patients," said Charles Stone, who estimated that the practice has 3,000 patients. "We get to see people year after year after year. We know people, not just their teeth.
"I don't like coming to the dentist but I like coming here because I know they will take good care of us," Naber said.
Chrisman said, "I've been doing this for 40-plus years and ... I've helped people to feel better about themselves. That's fun to do."
"Our patients," Charles Stone said, "are a part of our family."