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736: The 5 Stages of My Dentistry Journey – Dr. Christian Coachman

Successful people experience adversity — and they learn to embrace it! Today, Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Christian Coachman, founder of Digital Smile Design and one of the most successful people in dentistry, to share his inspirational story about overcoming his hardships, the origins of DSD, and his passion and love for this profession. We all struggle at some point in life. But you can get the most out of your suffering! To learn how to succeed at struggling, listen to Episode 736 of The Best Practices Show!

Learn More About Dr. Coachman:

Learn More About ACT Dental:

More Helpful Links for a Better Practice & a Better Life:

Main Takeaways:

  • Without adversity, you won't grow and develop.
  • Learn, grow, and create. Don't stay in survival mode.
  • Don't stay stuck in frustration. Use that energy to change.
  • There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Never give up!
  • Everyone has an “unfair advantage”. Discover yours and use it.
  • Stop being a perfectionist. Be brave and put your work out there.
  • Let your mind wander from time to time. It can be good for creativity.


“[I] had no clue I would become a dentist. Even though my whole family is in dentistry, I never thought about it, and I was not into it. My dream was to be an architect or an artist. My father saved my dental career when he suggested to me to become a technician. And by loving the dental tech work, I realized that dentistry could do something for me, and that's how I found my passion.” (2:32—3:09)

“Dentistry was generous enough to actually fulfill all my dreams. I wanted to be a designer. I became a smile designer. I wanted to be an architect. I became a smile architect. I wanted to own a business. I became the owner of Digital Smile Design. I fell in love with marketing, and most of my work or part of my work is to work with marketing teams and consult for marketing teams in dentistry. I love communication, and I wanted to be a communicator. Dentistry allowed me to become a communicator in dentistry. So, it's funny because the most common thing to do as a dentist — clinical work — I never did it, and I was able to do everything else in dentistry and fulfill all my dreams.” (3:10—4:04)

“Dentistry is such a multifactorial profession today that you can be whatever you want in dentistry. I was able to find all these niches and be so passionate about dentistry, even though the first two years of dental school, I was 100% sure that dentistry was not for me.” (4:13— 4:36)

“I saw a famous CEO of a big company . . . He’s hot now on social media. One of his main messages is that you can only grow when you suffer. There is zero chance you're going to grow if you don't struggle, or if you don't suffer.” (11:55—12:17)

“Find something that you can be slightly better than average at. And if you succeed, you're going to like it anyway. You're going to find a way to like it because you are good, not the [other way around].” (14:16—14:26)

“The shortcut [to success] is, from everything that I can do, what is the thing that I can probably do slightly better, or I can learn faster, because of any kind of characteristic or gift that I have, or a closer mentor that I have, or an opportunity that I have? What is that little gap of opportunity? You need to be able to, in the middle of this mess, step back a few minutes a week at least and say, what is it? What is it? What is it? Even if I need to work as a waiter to pay my bills next month, I will keep that going. I'm going to find that little thing, and I'm going to start doing it, and this is going to be my shortcut.” (14:32—15:78)

“The second biggest lesson for me in this initial period . . . is networking, communicating, being nice, adding value in conversations — being that young person that is very successful that older people, in a five-minute conversation, notices you, saying, ‘This is a nice, young kid. If I come up with an opportunity, I would definitely give an opportunity to this guy.’ By being a nice person, working hard, and being so ethical about work, giving my 110%, you stand out a little bit. Allow the people that have the connections to identify you.” (16:07—16:56)

“Learn, grow, and create. After 10 years working on whatever you picked, there's no excuse for you not to be passing survival mode and getting into, ‘Now that I have the skills, I'm already doing decent, how can I learn the steps to become great?’” (17:04—17:26)

“You need to be naive to be creative — idealistic. You need to dream. You need to dream awake. You need to have creative idleness. You need to stop, like a kid, from time to time and think about nothing and let your mind wander.” (35:38—35:57)

“Information is very democratic. So, if you put yourself in that position to take advantage of the information, you're going to find solutions that people didn't think of before, or you're going to improve solutions that already exist.” (36:16—36:32)

“I'm not a perfectionist. I tell my team it's better to put it out there than to wait for things to get perfect. Don't wait — just be brave. Put it out there. Allow the criticism to come. Let people say, ‘This is not good.’ I don't care. It's much better [if] you're exposing yourself. You're learning. You're speeding up the process. And it may be good enough for many. Right? It may be good enough to help people, and then you improve on top of it. So, don't wait.” (45:38—46:08)

“I've been analyzing other people's careers and people that were able to succeed and leave a legacy, and there are always similar stages. When you are completely uncomfortable in survival mode, make sure that you don't feel like everything is a waste. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you need to use that suffering to find that thing that you can do slightly better than the average.” (50:38—51:07)

“When you are suffering and struggling because things are not going right for you and you feel like everything is wrong, make sure that you translate that anger — because you feel anger. You're not necessarily pissed with anybody, but just, ‘Why am I struggling?’ Take that anger and flip that into action towards that one little thing that you think you can do slightly better than the others, and it's going to happen. Persistency, resilience — put that anger into that right energy, and suddenly, you start to do things and people start to notice. Don't stay there forever.” (51:08—51:50)

“Get uncomfortable, learn, grow, create, communicate, spread the word, create the reputation, build a business around it, delegate, and go to the next phase. Maybe some people do this three, four, five times in a lifetime. I like to think that there's no ending, and that keeps me young and alive.” (54:19—54:39)


0:00 Introduction.

2:19 Fulfilling dreams through dentistry.

7:46 Dentistry wasn't always a passion.

11:34 Stage 1) Being in survival mode.

17:01 Stage 2) Learning, growing, and creating.

28:57 Stage 3) Becoming a communicator.

41:46 Stage 4) Turning passion into a business.

44:27 Stage 5) Becoming a delegator.

48:09 The future for Dr. Coachman and DSD.

50:20 Final thoughts.

Dr. Christian Coachman Bio:

Combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions, Dr. Christian Coachman pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded Digital Smile Design company (DSD). Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses and workshops, such as the renowned DSD Residency program.

Dr. Coachman is the developer of worldwide, well-known concepts such as the Digital Smile Design, the Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, the Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation, and Digital Smile Donator. He regularly consults for dental industry companies, developing products, implementing concepts, and marketing strategies, such as the Facially Driven Digital Orthodontic Workflow developed in collaboration with Invisalign, Align Technology.