A new face at one of Martin City’s oldest businesses is giving our community another reason to smile. Dr. Sky Kurlbaum has joined the team at the Dental Care Center of South Kansas City on 135th Street. Kurlbaum’s expertise and experience are an ideal complement to a practice already known for exceptional customer care under the leadership of founder Dr. Greg Stiver.
A Perfect Match
Dr. Kurlbaum is established, well-trained, and known for the style every patient wants in a dentist. Spend just a couple of minutes with him and you can tell he’s naturally calm, caring, and motivated by all the right reasons. You might say he specializes in making a positive connection with everyone he serves.
“People can feel an energy coming off of you. If you’re genuinely empathetic and reassuring, it puts them at ease,” says Kurlbaum. “The joy I get out of my work is knowing how much it means for my patients. I really want to help them and I think they can tell.”
Kurlbaum has learned that when he establishes an authentic relationship with each patient, everything else falls right into place. They relax and get comfortable, allowing him to provide quality care that leaves them feeling good and keeps them coming back.
“We’re dealing with human beings, and every mouth is different. I focus on helping the person first, whatever it takes, and delivering dental services second. Patients know I take care of them just as I would take care of myself.”
Who doesn’t tend to stick with a dentist they like? That’s why so many people stick with Dr. Kurlbaum. He’s the kind of dentist you look forward to seeing and has across-the-board skills to give you the best care. His style and wide-ranging expertise are a perfect match for the comprehensive care model that defines the Dental Care Center of Kansas City.
“There aren’t too many dental challenges our team isn’t qualified to take on,” says Kurlbaum. “This isn’t the type of practice where we routinely refer patients to other dentists for more specialized care. We’re more traditional in that we keep it all here and that’s the way our patients like it. They trust us and would rather have us take care of whatever they need.”
Like Dr. Stiver, Dr. Kurlbaum is a graduate of the UMKC School of Dentistry. He comes from a situation where he split his time between private practice and going out into the community to care for kids in low-income families. At the Dental Care Center, he continues giving back to people in need but his attention has shifted toward the elderly.
“Getting good dental care can really be a challenge for older patients. They can have complicating health issues and anxieties that prevent them from getting the help they need. So, I go into their rooms in residential facilities where they’re comfortable and do my work in the best way possible to keep them calm and make them happy.”
A Family of Specialists Behind the Smiles
It’s no surprise that Dr. Kurlbaum and Dr. Stiver find themselves working side-by-side. Both are gentle, devoted professionals who share a particular passion for helping people. They also share a love of family and take pride in being part of a family-oriented business. Members of both Stiver’s family and Kurlbaum’s family are on the Dental Care Center’s team.
“We’re all becoming one big family which just makes us so much better as a dentistry team,” explains Kurlbaum. “We share basic values about taking care of each other and our patients. Family is so important to me and I just feel so accepted here.”
As Kurlbaum builds his career, he couldn’t ask for a more seasoned mentor and he knows it. Stiver is in his 35th year of practicing dentistry. You would think he’s seen it all by now and may even be a little restless. But Stiver says his love of his work is just part of who he is.
“I never grow tired of it and I’m always training to enhance my skills and improve different aspects of my business.”
Stiver’s business has grown to include state-of-the-art equipment and nearly 20 employees ranging from hygienists and dental assistants to office staff. The size of the team makes it one of the larger dental practices you’ll ever come across. It’s popular too, and Stiver makes a point of sharing the credit.
“The people who work here are the number one reason we’re successful. I’ve been very selective over the years in choosing the right people for our culture. Now we have a crew of experts staying completely focused on our patients at every level.”
“The level of respect Dr. Stiver has built up in the community is just extraordinary. Our schedule fills up on his reputation alone,” says Kurlbaum. “His co-workers admire him and his patients believe in him. That matters to me. His skills are unquestionable and he makes service the cornerstone of the practice. It’s easy to see why I chose to join him.”
“We get so many glowing reviews and that means everything to me,” adds Stiver. “People actually look forward to coming here. That says it all.”
Dr. Stiver’s team gives special attention to every step of the patient experience to make it all as pleasant as possible. Their commitment and discipline are essential for what Stiver calls a high-touch approach.
“Everyone knows a trip to the dentist can bring anxiety so we’re very focused on relieving that tension. When we say we want you to feel at home, we really mean it and I think it shows.”
It’s true, you can’t help but love the feel of the Dental Care Center. Calming colors, images, and messages are everywhere. Treat yourself to a cup of freshly brewed coffee, take a seat in a cushy chair in front of a big-screen TV, or surf a little on free WiFi.
All the amenities wrapped inside a soft environment complete with scented candles amount to an invitation to relax. You might think you’re closer to a spa than a dentist’s chair.
“All dentists want to make patients feel comfortable and ease their anxieties, but this business does it better than any I’ve seen. No question about it,” Kurlbaum emphasizes. “There are good ideas at work here plus the discipline to stick with them and really maintain a warm, welcoming culture.”
Dr. Stiver says Ginger, his wife, and Chief Operating Officer, is the one responsible for transforming the office a few years ago.
“Ginger just jumped in and made us what we are today — comfortable and pleasant. Her work here has been truly remarkable and we’re better for it.”
“I just can’t say enough about Ginger’s commitment,” adds Kurlbaum. “She’s determined to make this business all it can be for patients. And her personality is right in line with that goal.”
Calming sedation techniques pick up where the calming atmosphere leaves off. Dr. Stiver is an expert at sedation. He says he started focusing on it about 15 years ago to help extreme anxiety cases that prevent some people from ever seeing a dentist.
“Now we offer several levels of sedation from very mild forms to intravenous that’s commonly associated with surgery. It’s all very safe.”
Stiver is constantly refining his sedation expertise and earns recertification regularly. He says sedation combined with a relaxing environment and a friendly staff creates a whole new perception of dental care.
“About four in ten people are afraid of seeing a dentist. We’re working to change that and we believe we’re making a real difference.”
A Salute to Giving Back
The Dental Care Center of South Kansas City happily shows support for the community it serves, and much of that support benefits military veterans.
“About once a year we’ll devote a full day to providing free dental care to veterans,” says Stiver. “It’s a really valuable service and who deserves it more than those who have served us all?”
The Dental Care Center also created a program to raise money for the support of veterans with PTSD. Stiver says every time the Dental Care Center receives a patient referral, he donates $25 toward the purchase of a highly-trained service dog through the organization Friends in Service of Heroes (FISH).
“When our referrals add up we purchase a dog and help deliver it to a veteran. That usually coincides with our free dental clinic day. It’s hard to describe how meaningful these dogs can be as companions for veterans who are suffering.”
Made in Martin City
Dr. Stiver has been practicing in Martin City for over three decades, which tells you all you need to know about his feelings for our neighborhood. He’s watched revitalization grow from an idea shared among friends to a movement with momentum.
“I was part of a small group years ago that included people like David Van Noy (RC’s Restaurant) and Steve Okenfuss (Reno’s Powersports KC) and tried to get the ball rolling toward getting the community more organized to plan and make improvements,” says Stiver. “That effort eventually led to the formation of the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) and it really took off. Just look around.”
Kurlbaum also has a history in our community. Long before dentistry, he was just a kid helping out on his parents’ well-known tomato farm and making deliveries to a certain, high-profile customer on Holmes Road.
“My first memory of Martin City was seeing an invoice for Jack Stack Barbecue,” says Kurlbaum. “I lived further north so my first thought was ‘Where the heck is Martin City?’ and then I set out with a huge order of tomatoes to find it. All these years later, I’m now in a position to explore the rest of Martin City and it’s like, wow, this is quite a neighborhood!”
Quite a neighborhood indeed, and getting better all the time. Stiver says he couldn’t be more excited to see the area on the upswing and he’s not at all surprised. “I mean it gives me a reason to smile every day. Martin City just has such a positive vibe. Everyone here enjoys being here. The improvements are wonderful. I especially like the lights and decorations around the holidays.”
“Martin City is like a microcosm of Kansas City itself,” adds Kurlbaum. “It’s a place with urban features but also a rural feel in some ways. That’s special. I like the small town feeling of having a town dentist, a place to take your car for maintenance, a veterinarian, etc. You know, it feels like home.”
Stiver agrees that Martin City seems to offer the best of both worlds. “It’s a bit of that small, hometown appeal but yet you’re about five minutes away from everything else,” adds Stiver. “What a great dynamic. That’s why Martin City is going to take off.”
Thank you, Dr. Stiver, Dr. Kurlbaum, and everyone at the Dental Care Center of South Kansas City for your commitment to your patients and to Martin City’s Future. We’re so proud to have you in the neighborhood!