Smart planning helped lead one California orthodontics practice through an entire new-construction process during the pandemic.


Perspective is everything. Balancing the construction of a second orthodontics practice in Rancho Cucamonga, California, near Los Angeles, with the day-to-day operations of an existing 6,000-square-foot office in neighboring Upland would be a challenge for anyone. Completing the build successfully while in the throes of a global pandemic might defeat even the most tireless professional.

Not Dr. Vanessa Peterson, however, who has plenty of experience following through to the finish line—often in record time. At 33, she’s a seven-time winner of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) and Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (PCSO) 5K runs, and has completed two Ironman triathlons.

Another colorful accent throughout Synergi Ortho comes from the wire-hung orange acrylic dividers between patient chairs. “Planned pre-Covid-19,” Dr. Peterson says. “We lucked out to have them.”

Her pre-race prep: generations of guidance. “My exposure to the dental field was early; my mom was a dental hygienist for 40 years,” Dr. Peterson says. “My real love for dentistry, and especially orthodontics, came from my experience having my own two-phase orthodontics completed by the late Dr. Stephen Tracey. I kept a close relationship with him throughout my dental and orthodontic education. He was a great orthodontist who loved his team and his patients, he was incredibly fit and did Ironman triathlons, and lectured all over the world to other orthodontists. I have modeled much of my personal and professional aspirations after what I learned from him.”

Divide and Conquer: Plexiglass partitions (left) were a fortuitous Covid play; the spacious, elegant reception area is welcoming to all.

Over six years spent running her own practice, Dr. Peterson has also gained experience in corporate dentistry and managed care, owned and sold a modified startup in Oregon and returned to her SoCal hometown. There she bought into a partnership in Synergi Orthodontic Specialists with Dr. Joseph W. Gray, which led to construction of the second practice this summer.

“We signed the office lease on August 1, 2019,” Dr. Peterson says. “We started construction in September 2019 and ended up having to change contractors in October. Everything was supposed to be completed by March 2020—and that’s when Covid-19 hit. Our cabinets were delayed, supply shipments delayed and much of construction halted. Our contractor was great at communicating and tried to do what he could to move things forward for us. We ended up opening our doors to patients at the beginning of July.”

Orange Sunshine: (From left) The open interior; a mural pays tribute to local history; private consult rooms; easy-to-clean seating retains a light touch.

Drawing on her plentiful reserves of that all-important perspective, Dr. Peterson used the lockdown to modify some of the practice plans with an eye toward efficiency and even stronger hygiene protocols. “Planning an office while seeing a full patient load was challenging, so being able to take care of the details while not seeing patients was a true blessing in disguise,” she says.

The 2,200-square-foot space at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains “initially looked dark,” so Dr. Peterson worked to bring in as much light as possible. She also gravitated toward clean, modern lines and vibrant colors for the interior aesthetic, leading with the sunny, optimistic hue—“International Orange,” it’s called—found in Synergi’s logo. Benco Dental Interior Designer Monica Hanson incorporated that color as well among elements such as light wood and various plants.

Fully In Sink: (Clockwise from left) Wash stations under Scandinavian open-weave pendants; the team break room; photos, CBCT and 3D scanning happen in the records room.

Monica had a vision I trusted, and she understood which aspects of that were important to me,” Dr. Peterson says. “From day one, we clicked. I could tell her my vision, and we would bounce ideas back and forth until we came up with a good plan.”

Patients often rave about the practice mural, painted by local artist Devin Johnson, which nods to the citrus groves of the older, more agricultural Rancho Cucamonga. Another colorful accent is the wire-hung orange acrylic dividers between patient chairs. “Planned pre-Covid-19,” Dr. Peterson says. “We lucked out to have them.”

The sterilization center in the middle of the practice is also fortuitously placed, showcasing Synergi’s infection-control procedures to all visitors. Dr. Peterson credits Benco Equipment Support Technician Tony Garcia. “When Covid-19 hit and many of our representatives were furloughed or unavailable, Tony became my point person and made many things happen in a short time,” she says. Building a new dental practice during an unprecedented global crisis, it turns out, was just another race for Dr. Peterson to run successfully.

New-Construction Tip … during a pandemic, or even a more normal time.

“I worked hand-in-hand with our team members, asking them what they liked and did not like about the [previous] office. I also had them review construction plans and cabinet design, and they had great insight on things I hadn’t thought about. Start selecting equipment as soon as possible—there are so many decisions to make during a 12- to 16-week construction process that the more you know prior to that, the better.” —Dr. Vanessa Peterson

The Design Team

Photographer: Ian Spanier /
Interior Design: Monica Hanson, CenterPoint Design, Benco Dental
Contractor: Kim Quach, MD Contractors
Equipment Specialist: Al Galvis, Benco Dental
Service Representative: Tony Garcia, Benco Dental
Friendly Benco Rep: Tiffany Robinson