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689: Dr. Will Kelly - The Non-Traditional Path to Creating Your Own Practice

Dr. Will Kelly, a leader in the field of Esthetic Restorative Dentistry and Dental Implants, shares the story of his unconventional path to dentistry. Dr. Kelly discusses the importance of being true to oneself, emphasizes the value of mentorship, the importance of filtering patients and focusing on treatment acceptance. Dr. Kelly also shares his vision for a practice that is like a speakeasy, where patients seek out his services. Dr. Kelly encourages dentists to know themselves, align their values with their practice, and pursue their dreams.

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways

  • You can chart your own path in dentistry and create a practice that reflects who you are.
  • Mentorship and study clubs can have a significant impact on your career and practice.
  • Filtering patients and focusing on treatment acceptance can lead to a more fulfilling practice.
  • Being true to yourself and your values is essential in creating a unique and successful practice.
  • Practicing in a small town can offer opportunities to make a difference and build strong relationships with patients.


00:00 Introduction

01:24 Non-traditional path to dentistry

06:01 Challenges in dental school

07:26 Importance of mentorship

10:19 Starting a practice in Gastonia

12:44 The impact of study clubs

14:39 Being true to yourself in dentistry

15:08 Filtering patients and treatment acceptance

18:03 Creating a unique practice

19:29 Building relationships with patients

22:46 The importance of asking for help

24:12 The speakeasy of dentistry

27:59 The benefits of practicing in a small town

35:09 Final thoughts


“I think the non-traditional story is we have this story we tell ourselves about dentists, you know, they're super focused people. I say, nah, man, it takes all kinds. And I think a superpower in dentistry sometimes is to be a little bit different.” (5:16 - 5:31)

“I had to fill the shoes of somebody that's 10 years in and very experienced and very loved. And I thought people love me too. And you learn real quick, you have to earn people's trust.” (11:14- 11:23)

“You gotta be unique and be yourself. And if you're trying to live in somebody else's shoes, you're never gonna be happy. Right. I always tell people, let's say you like something crazy. Let's say you love listening to ACDC all day long while you're drilling teeth.You know what practice you're going to have 10 years later? AC DC fans.”(13:48 - 14:09)

“Everybody hates going to the dentist. But if you could take something so uncomfortable and just earn enough of that person's time for them to get there where they go, gosh, this person cares.”(20:03 - 20:08)

“A good mentor has that ability to set you on a path and to solve a riddle for yourself.” (24:09 - 24:17)

“That speakeasy idea is, what if you earn a place where people are seeking you enough that your office is a little hidden? that the phone number's a little bit harder to get. That, you know, you don't walk into a four-star restaurant and just grab a seat yourself without being seated. Just being a level deeper. And of course you have to earn that. And I don't know if I'm there yet. I don't know if I just disappeared into a dark alley that I could survive right now. But I think it's a vision or a goal that I have for later on in the practice life.” (25:22 - 25:13)

“I think the next dental chapter is this cool place where the fear and burden of running a practice is not on you anymore. And the thing where people are... you know, they're running away from industry or selling their practice to a DSO or whatever. It's the opposite of that. It's like this has become what I call playing by ear instead of breathing the sheet music. Where it allows you to feel comfortable in what you've achieved and then really have crazy places you can explore with what's next.” (32:12 - 33:25)

“You gotta know yourself. And you need to find your values. You need to align what you do to your values. You're only gonna do what you value. At the end of the day, the things on your to-do list that you don't follow up on are the things you didn't value enough to take the time to do. So clarify that and chase your dreams. Be yourself and the world will kind of fall in for you. And if it doesn’t, you need to reassess. (34:53 - 35:21)

Dr. Will Kelly Bio:

Dr. Will Kelly is an experienced leader and trusted provider in the field of Esthetic Restorative Dentistry and Dental Implants. He is passionate about great results and has pursued training and understanding the complexity of advanced, well-designed dentistry throughout his career. This willingness to operate a practice based on a high standard of care requires a dedication to practice dentistry differently, separating himself from the average and traditional dental model. He has developed a practice philosophy that creates a unique experience for patients seeking ideal results.

Dr. Kelly is a creative individual whose childhood talent and passion for drawing, painting, and sculpture transitioned into the art of dentistry. After attending the School of Design at North Carolina State University, he pursued the profession of his father, seeing the possibility to apply his passion for creation, imagination, and critical thinking toward dentistry. He is full of curiosity and views dental healthcare as an opportunity to improve the lives of others. He challenges himself to stay in front of this medical discipline which has endless possibilities to provide health and well-being. His dedication to being an innovator in an ever-advancing body of knowledge and technology in modern dentistry is greatly appreciated by those he serves. 

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Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.