The Value of Consultants, Coaches, and Mentors in Dental Practice 

April 5, 2024 Gary DeWood, DDS

Gary M. DeWood, DDS, MS 

As an associate dentist, you may be fortunate to learn from the instruction and observation of a senior dentist, but over your career, you will gain innumerable benefits from outside consultants, coaches, and mentors. 

One of my mentors, Dr. Richard A. Green, told me that one of the keys to my success would be to surround myself with a Board of Directors. He was correct. My board is composed of people who are willing and able to see my vision and hold me accountable for going to it. Some are consultants, some are coaches, and some are mentors. Sometimes they are all three in one person but no one person has all the answers. 

Consultants, coaches, and mentors help us in different ways. 

In dental practice, I often hear the words mentor, coach, and consultant used interchangeably to describe the activities of someone assisting the doctor with the management of his or her practice. I believe that these functions, while not mutually exclusive of the same individual, are different in their roles with regard to all three of you. 

What do I mean by that? “You #1” is the entrepreneur and leader of the business you have established. “You #2” is the manager of that business. “You #3” is the dentist working in the business. Each you possesses a different level of training, understanding, and ability. Each you benefits differently from consulting, coaching, and mentoring. 

Early in practice my partner and I hired consultants to see what escaped us and to give us solutions.  

Consulting is all about being an outsider looking in. The adage that consultants are individuals who are paid a lot of money to tell you what you already knew but couldn’t see, does not diminish their effectiveness or necessity, particularly in offering solutions.  

I met Jim Pride while I was still in dental school. In the early years of our relationship, following the acquisition of our practice, Laura, our Pride consultant, consulted us by telling us what to do. I was directed to employ systems that were developed by Jim Pride and his team while working with many Pride Institute clients. I did as we were “consulted” because I had no reference for individualizing the systems, something that changed as we found the parts and pieces that delivered and left behind parts that did not resonate for us.  

As my partner (who happened to be my wife) and I changed, our expectations changed, and our needs changed, we continued to need that outsider looking in to see for us that which we could not see. We did not, however, need or want to be offered solutions. The best consultants understand that their ultimate goal is to empower and develop their clients’ skills and abilities so that they can eventually operate independently. 

When we no longer needed a consultant, we needed a coach. 

Unlike consulting, where solutions with precise instructions are offered, coaching offered us a process out of which our vision for our practice developed. Dental practice coaches ask questions rather than give answers. They are observers. They take us inside ourselves and assist in our development as leaders. They draw out what is already within and empower us to act on it. 

What, then, is a mentor? 

For me, mentors are individuals who have traveled the path we seek to follow. They may fill the role as a consultant and/or a coach depending on our needs and their comfort with the things that are challenging us at any given time, but frequently their primary role is that of an example. The Pankey Institute community abounds in them. 

I have observed that dentists who develop a relationship with a mentor are able to move more quickly and clearly toward their preferred future. It is precisely for this reason that one of the goals of participation in a study club is to build groups with a broad range of experience and experiences. It is the third YOU, the practicing dentist, who gets the most from being mentored 

Dentistry is a tough job. It’s demanding and stressful to perform highly technical, intricate procedures continuously on a daily basis. Our mentors show us that we can do it because they did. Often there is peer-to-peer collaboration in “surfacing up” the mindset, approaches, and solutions that will work best for us. Always there is encouragement. 

Sometimes mentors listen. Sometimes they challenge. Always they support. Their map is not always the map we choose to follow, but their example–as individuals who continue to see their vision and map their future accordingly–inspires us to do the same. 

Related Course

Creating Financial Freedom

DATE: March 6 2025 @ 8:00 am - March 8 2025 @ 2:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 16

Dentist Tuition: $ 2795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

Achieving Financial Freedom is Within Your Reach!   Would you like to have less fear, confusion and/or frustration around any aspect of working with money in your life, work, or when…

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Life-Long Learning Part 3: Leisure Learning Is Intentional Learning 

March 27, 2024 Gary DeWood, DDS

Gary M. DeWood, DDS, MS 

We might define leisure learning as “Anything that is taught in an organized formal or informal plan of education to assist an adult in learning something about his or her occupation, occupational opportunities, personal happiness, or social enhancement and into which that adult engages him or herself for the purpose of learning about it.”  

I’d like to rename it “Intentional Learning” for the purpose of our discussion. My best guess is that your intent in coming to The Pankey Institute is to learn something about dentistry that will help you do what you do better. The incentive for that goal, being better, is why you come. You are choosing to use leisure time to learn dental stuff with intention. 

Any information you perceive as other than about being “better at clinical dentistry” you might be less interested in retaining and consequently likely to forget quickly. You will not really learn the stuff for which you have limited curiosity. Interestingly, that stuff that is not about the “dentistry” is the most important part of what The Pankey Institute sends you home with. At least I and countless others have found this to be true. 

Intentional learning is essential if you want to live a longer life. 

In the absence of Intentional Learning, defined as “actively seeking out new information that you WANT to integrate into your experience and understanding of the world,” certain parts of your brain will shrink. Your capacity for learning and your critical thinking/problem-solving skills will diminish. A reduction in neurons and neurotransmitters will affect your memory, your concentration, your mood, and your physical movement. Blood flow to parts of the brain can even be reduced–use it or lose it is a common thread in nature.  

So, Intentional Learning is GOOD for your brain and necessary if you wish to thrive. Synapses continue to form and re-form if you are acquiring new information, experiences, and knowledge with intent. Intentional Learning reduces stress levels. Stress reduction not only helps us perform better in our professional life, but our personal lives as well. 

Intentional learning opens social possibilities. 

Homo Sapiens are social creatures, we crave interaction, in fact we require it. Intentional learning encourages us to take risks, adjust, and adapt as we go. It sparks social engagement which leads to happiness in so many aspects of our lives. It enhances motivation, creativity, and innovation. It provides an opportunity to open our minds, challenge ourselves, and appreciate new opportunities. 

Intentional Learning fuels even more learning
as it stimulates curiosity, renews our purpose,
and moves us toward problem solving actions.
It has the potential to keep us young. 

My mother’s desire for Intentional Leisure Learning, never left her; she was and is a voracious reader, and to this day at the age of 90, she loves nothing more than sharing something she has read recently and is busy integrating into her view of the world and how it works. Her beliefs are open to what she experiences in her life, to what she learns.  

The day will come, sooner than I wish, when “dental” learning will not be as applicable to my daily life as it is today. I will still want to be part of a dental study club, still challenge what I think I know, and offer whatever wisdom I’ve been able to store to the conversation.  

Once found, intentional lifelong learning is something one does not easily lose the desire for. 

I will never forget Dr. Parker Mahan’s words, “I know I too can never live long enough.” Some might hear those words as limiting. I hear them as liberating. The well of knowledge will never be dry. It is and will remain an infinite source of things that I can still learn. 

I am so grateful to be back home at The Pankey Institute after spending my intentional learning (and teaching) time for the past fifteen years in a place that has made a choice to focus on “dental” learning. The behavioral aspects of dentistry and developing understanding of oneself and others have always had equal focus at Pankey. And since that “other stuff” is not something that can ever be checked off as “learned” no matter how many years I have left to be here, my intentional learning can and will always be young and new. It’s why The Pankey Institute is not a place you DO, it’s a place you learn to BE. 

The Institute is a place where learning never stops because, when you learn to BE, you have learned to act. Being is an ongoing and continuous process. It’s something that is lived. It is community. It is home. It is still The One Place.  

Related Course

Creating Financial Freedom

DATE: March 6 2025 @ 8:00 am - March 8 2025 @ 2:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 16

Dentist Tuition: $ 2795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

Achieving Financial Freedom is Within Your Reach!   Would you like to have less fear, confusion and/or frustration around any aspect of working with money in your life, work, or when…

Learn More>

About Author

User Image
Gary DeWood, DDS

FIND A PANKEY DENTIST OR TECHNICIAN

I AM A
I AM INTERESTED IN

VIEW COURSE CALENDAR