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Episode #592: Why You Need a Clinical Coach, with Dr. John Cranham & Dr. Noemi Cruz-Orcutt

In the words of Brené Brown, we weren’t designed to do everything alone. We all need a little help, whether it’s from a mentor, a coach, or a teacher. To explain the differences between the three types of guidance, why you need it, and how to find the right person for you, Kirk Behrendt brings in Dr. John Cranham and Dr. Noemi Cruz-Orcutt to share their mentor-mentee relationship and how it continues to grow. To hear more about how a coach can change your practice, listen to Episode 592 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

Understand the differences between a teacher, mentor, and coach.

Find someone you respect, admire, and is the right fit for you.

Coaching or mentorship can help speed up your progress.

A coach will help you gain the confidence you need.

Don’t just choose anyone to be your coach.


“[Coaching is] one of those things in dentistry that is way underutilized. With the technology today, like virtual articulation and the ability to treatment plan on a computer, we can use technologies or software like TeamViewer, or Zoom, or any of these things to be able to share a screen, and it’s like you’re sitting right next to one another. I think it can really help connect dentists — whether you’re a mentor, a coach, or even an interdisciplinary team — maybe better than we’ve ever seen it before.” (5:34—6:10) -Dr. Cranham

“If you have somebody that you trust, and you know if you put in the time that you’re going to get a result, that’s way different than putting time in when you’re not sure you’re going to get a result. That’s called reinventing the wheel. And if I hadn’t had those people, Pete [Dawson] and all those people early in my career, there’s no way my career would have gone where it ended up, because by the time I had been practicing 10 years, I probably had the experience and knowledge of a dentist doing it 30 years. And so, you can get to a [higher] level much faster. You hear the old adage, standing on the shoulders of the people before you. That’s what you’re basically doing. You’re eliminating the trial-and-error process, eliminating mistakes, and being able to drive right into workflows that work.” (10:42—11:37) -Dr. Cranham

“A mentor is often somebody that is in your community, somebody that you’re close with. That might be a periodontist. It might be an older dentist that you spend a little time with. But I think it’s a little less formal [than a teacher or a coach]. It’s a little less organized, where I think as a coach, it’s a little bit more of a professional relationship. There’s usually a curriculum. There’s usually something involved, very specific, that you’re doing. A teacher is usually not so much in a one-on-one setting. You might be in a classroom with 20 or 25 people. I think mentorship and coaching often is one-on-one. But I think the coach is usually something that you’re committing some time and finances to that you’re going to lock in. That’s certainly how it was with my coach, with Jerry. I was committing to certain things, and time that he would assign to me. Whereas I think with a mentor, it’s often somebody that you might have dinner with occasionally, or swing by the office, and it’s a little looser. That’s the way I think about it.” (22:00—23:17) -Dr. Cranham

“I think with mentorship, it’s maybe less official, someone that you might communicate with once in a while and ask questions. It’s not as structured as coaching. With coaching, what has been great for me from the beginning is I would schedule that time. And many times, I would be like, ‘Okay, I need to get this case ready for that time,’ so it kept me accountable in terms of getting my stuff ready before I met with John because we had that time set up.” (23:23—24:00) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“There’s also a difference from the standpoint of the person on the other side of it. So, from the student perspective is one thing. But if you’re a mentor, ‘Yeah, I’ll mentor you,’ and that means, ‘I’ll give you some time when I’m free and our schedules connect.’ When you coach, you are committing time. So, like with my calendar, I have about 10 hours a week that my clients can sign up for. I’m there for 45 minutes, locked in, to whatever they’re doing. I think that’s the biggest difference, is there’s a bigger level of commitment on the coaching side versus the mentor side.” (24:05—24:45) -Dr. Cranham

“For me, before starting the coaching, I didn’t want to bother as much — or, I don’t want to say bother, but take his time without having the structure because I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know how much is too much,’ in terms of taking the person’s time. When you set up with the coaching and you’re compensating the other person, then you feel like, ‘Okay, this is my time with this person,’ and I don’t feel bad, or that I’m bothering. So that, for me, felt better.” (24:52—25:31) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“To be honest, I think I had the knowledge on how to do these cases. But trusting that — like John said, we’re changing the occlusion of our patients. When we’re doing bigger cases, I wanted to make sure that before I did it, I had someone with experience looking over it and saying, ‘Yeah, we’re in the right place,’ because you don’t want to do any harm to the patient or put them in a worse position than they had come in. And John, I’m always happy because he will look at my case in five minutes and tell me. I’m like, ‘Okay, you just looked at it, and you gave me the answers, and it makes total sense.’ I would always feel better after talking to him about the case. I’m like, ’Okay, I’ve got this. I feel better.’ He gave me the confidence that I — to be honest, I never did a full-mouth reconstruction until I had John as a coach.” (29:49—30:53) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“I think the biggest thing [dentists get wrong], and I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong because everybody is a little bit different, but usually we’ll find out pretty quickly where their holes are. That’s one of the things that’s so interesting to me, is that we’ve got a lot of people that have been through either Dawson, Pankey, or these curriculums — and I understand the philosophy, and I can coach accordingly. But it’s interesting that a lot of times people will go through things and miss a concept like envelope of function, or something along those lines, and are not thinking about it. And sometimes, we’ll have a clarification discussion of what something like that means, and you’ll see them go to a higher level of understanding, just being able to talk through it, but not seeing that in their design of like a diagnostic wax-up. If you miss something like that, it’s catastrophic. And the permanent restorations — like, you can’t miss that. So, I think having these little check points of being able to go through things is really, really important.” (32:27—33:40) -Dr. Cranham

“Dentists that I’m around, or some colleagues that I know, they’re in the same boat trying to do good dentistry, and taking continuing education, and trying to do the best they can. I feel that sometimes, if you’re taking a lot of different courses and trying to implement it all at once, it could get confusing without having one specific path or philosophy. And so, what I notice, that’s one thing, that it’s hard to implement. So, my advice would be to find one of those philosophies, it could be Pankey, Dawson, Kois, Spear, and just focus on that. Then, from there, branch out and start learning how to do the techniques. But then also, for me, finding a mentor or a coach that’s ideal — and unfortunately, I don’t think everyone has the chance or an opportunity to have one. And in that case, it can limit how quickly you can progress or implement all that you’re learning into your practice and be able to do those bigger cases or more complex cases that you’re wanting to do.” (34:53—36:24) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“Whatever you’re learning from, whatever institution or different courses, if you continue to see many of the professors or teachers that are providing the knowledge, just approach them. For me, I’m lucky to have John in terms of what I look for in a mentor was someone that was approachable that I still look up to, someone that I respected. And maybe a little scary at first, but now we’re past that. I wanted someone that I admire and that I’m like, ‘That’s the type of dentistry I want to do.’ But then, that person also has to be approachable, and that you don’t feel that you can’t even ask them a question, or when they answer, you don’t feel bad about their response. It’s good communication, and you feel like you’re growing with that person. As you get more comfortable, you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m more comfortable with my dentistry, and I also feel like I’m more comfortable with the mentor,’ and that relationship continues to grow. So, I would say in order to do that, it’s not as easy as just, ‘I’m going to pick this person.’ You have to develop that relationship somehow. Many teachers or instructors that are giving courses out there are willing to teach and take students under their arms to help them grow. But you have to find that person that fits their personality as well.” (36:47—38:40) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“Where I got really lucky with Pete is that he not only had the clinical things that I wanted, but we had a very similar value system. For him, doing great dentistry was 100% about being more predictive so that he could leave his office at 5:00 and go be a dad. His values for family and faith — he was somebody I wanted to be, not just as a dentist, but as a person. And so, I think when you’re picking a coach or a mentor, you can separate it out. There are short-term relationships you can have. Like, if you want to do better endo, you can probably find an endodontist that you’re going to spend a little time with, and you don’t need that. But if you are looking for somebody to shape your practice — and I feel like that’s what we’re doing. It’s not just about the dentistry, but we’re really shaping how they practice, how they set their hours, and how they manage their time. Those are all hugely tied to your value system and who you are.” (38:52—40:04) -Dr. Cranham

“When you start getting a little bit along in years, you start thinking about what has your life in dentistry, your life, and what you practice, what has it meant. And it is directly tied to the people that you touch. Pete called it the ripple effect, as a drop of water hits a calm lake, how that ripple goes across all the way. And that’s where we’re at right now.” (41:51—42:22) -Dr. Cranham

“I can speak more about my practice, as a leader with my team, and also giving them the opportunity to learn from me, and also to have the independence, of them taking pride in being able to do certain things themselves within the office. And the digital portion of it has been a huge part of it, that they have learned some of these techniques that we’re doing now, and then they take ownership and do it themselves. So, that gives me some pride that they are also embracing that portion. And as I look to the future, I would love to help other dentists benefit from what I have benefited from in this process. I feel like in a short period of time, I have gained the confidence to — when I look back two years ago, where I was at and where I am now. So, being able to share that knowledge and opportunity for them to do the same in their practice, and as I continue in my career, being able to help and lead others do the same.” (43:41—44:58) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“I think for doctors that are used to being taught things, that are going to CE and accustomed to having a teacher, definitely look for a mentor, and maybe even a coach. One of the things that Noemi mentioned, the word that I really like was accountability. When you’re being taught by a teacher, there’s zero accountability. When you have a coach that you’ve signed up time for and you’re going to go online one-on-one, that coach knows instantly whether you’ve done the work or not. I’ve been on the side of seeing people that are prepared, and the ones that aren’t prepared are embarrassed and apologizing because they wasted their time, and they’re wasting my time. I’m nice about it, but if it’s happening a lot, you’ve got to go, ‘We’ve got to help you. How can we help you organize your time so that we can get more out of this?’ And so, there are lessons in that too. I think that it may not be 100% for everybody. But I think understanding the teaching/coaching/mentor spectrum — think about who you are. If you’re somebody that can benefit from that, go ahead and start working in that direction.” (46:12—47:26) -Dr. Cranham

“[Having a coach is] a no-brainer in terms of how quickly you can get to where you want to be if you find the right mentor. You could have taken countless hours of continuing education. But implementing it, I have to say, even since I started — I tell this to other colleagues. Since I started having John as my mentor, it completely changed the way I practice. And maybe that’s why I can take so much blue time, John.” (47:34—48:02) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt

“[It’s about] finding the right person that fits you, and knowing how you want to practice, and observing, ‘Who do I look up to? Who do I want to learn more from? Because I want to practice that way.’ That’s the key. I would say if you don’t have that clear vision, just getting anyone, it might not be as helpful because you might not have the same vision, or you might not have that connection that you feel comfortable talking to each other and learning from. So, you have to have that vision of, who is that person you want to learn from? And then, from there, grow.” (48:08—48:51) -Dr. Cruz-Orcutt


0:00 Introduction.

1:54 Dr. Orcutt’s background.

3:18 Dr. Cranham’s background.

6:12 Why you need a coach.

12:34 Dr. Orcutt’s journey with mentorship.

21:38 The difference between a mentor, coach, and teacher.

25:33 Clinical coaching, explained.

29:24 Increase your confidence with a coach.

32:18 Things dentists get wrong.

36:25 Advice for finding mentors.

41:19 Being a great leader.

45:58 Last thoughts on getting a clinical coach.

48:57 More about Cranham Culp Digital Dental and how to get in touch.

Dr. John Cranham Bio:

Dr. John C. Cranham is a highly respected and renowned dentist in Chesapeake, Virginia. At his state-of-the-art office, he delivers unsurpassed general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and restorative dentistry, including TMJ THERAPY and DENTAL IMPLANT SERVICES. He uses his vast experience and expansive knowledge to create healthy, natural-looking smiles. 

Dr. Cranham was an honors graduate of the Medical College of Virginia in 1988. He’s an internationally recognized speaker on the esthetic principles of smile design, contemporary occlusal concepts, treatment planning, restoration selection, digital photography, laboratory communication, and happiness and fulfillment in dentistry. 

Dr. Cranham founded Cranham Dental Seminars, which provides lectures, mobile programs, and intensive hands-on experiences to dentists around the world. In 2008, Cranham Dental Seminars merged with THE DAWSON ACADEMY, a world-famous continuing education facility based in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

As The Dawson Academy’s acting Clinical Director, Dr. Cranham is involved with many of the courses and provides continuing education to dental professionals across the globe. He spends approximately two-thirds of his time in private practice and the other third as an educator. He believes this balance keeps him on the leading edge of both disciplines. 

A published author, Dr. Cranham is committed to providing the highest quality patient care, as well as developing sound educational programs that exceed the needs of today’s dental professional. 

Dr. Cranham is an active member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, American Academy of Fixed Prosthodontics, and American Equilibration Society. 

Dr. Noemi Cruz-Orcutt Bio:

Dr. Noemi Cruz-Orcutt was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Sciences as a Valedictorian at the University of Puerto Rico and earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.  While receiving her dental education, she was involved in dental research and was an active leader in various dental organizations. Due to her academic performance and commitment to patient care, she was selected by her faculty to be a member of dentistry’s most prestigious honor society, Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU), in addition to receiving other dental awards. She furthered her education by completing a residency in Advanced Education in General Dentistry at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, and practiced as an Associate Dentist in Charlottesville, Virginia, prior to moving to Mason City.

Dr. Cruz-Orcutt is committed to lifelong learning and providing the best comprehensive dental care to her patients. She is an Alumni of The Dawson Academy and is also a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Iowa Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Seattle Study Club, Spear Study Club, and American Academy of Clear Aligners.

Dr. Cruz-Orcutt entered the field of dentistry because of her desire to help others achieve the best oral health possible. She believes that everyone should enjoy life to the fullest with the benefit that good oral health provides. She loves the joy and satisfaction that she receives from each patient interaction and strives to individualize treatment to meet her patients’ unique oral health needs. Her primary goal is for her patients to feel at ease while receiving excellent comprehensive care.

Dr. Cruz-Orcutt and her husband, Kevin Orcutt, have two fun and energetic kids, Lukas and Adaliz. She is fluent in both English and Spanish, is an avid amateur photographer, and loves the outdoors, traveling, music, and spending time with family and friends. 


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