DSD has evolved from a technique into a philosophy of modern esthetic rehab clinics – Dr Coachman
Christian Coachman, the founder, and CEO of the Digital Smile Design (DSD) company, is well-known for combining his advanced skills, experience, and technology solutions. He pioneered the Digital Smile Design methodology and founded the DSD company. Since its inception, thousands of dentists worldwide have attended DSD courses, workshops, and the renowned DSD Residency program. In this article, Dr Christian Coachman is interviewed by Dr Rajiv Verma, a popular name in Indian dentistry known for decades of dental education and his long association with DSD.
Can you tell us all about getting conceived, pregnant & delivering DSD to the World of Dentistry?
Conceiving DSD was a consequence of 2 factors: my character of never being satisfied with the status quo and my desire to be more efficient and successful as a technician and smile designer. When I started as a ceramist, I realized that even though I was lucky to work with great clinicians, there was still much room for improvement. My goal was to create a workflow to increase my chances of delivering better smiles, more predictably with less stress. In my opinion, there was too much guessing and too much waste of energy, adjusting things in the mouth. I wanted to improve the process, invest more energy in planning outside the mouth to minimize the work inside the mouth. I learned that our most valuable time is our chairside time. More valuable from the technical, psychological and financial standpoint. So I started to list everything that I thought I could do better to improve team communication, technical and clinical execution, and I started to create solutions to these points. The combination of these solutions that I was able to put together I called Digital Smile Design Concept. As soon as I saw the effectiveness of the solutions, I naturally started to share with colleagues. People got immediately really interested in it, so I started to organize courses, and in a few years, it was all over the world. By the way, right now, we are celebrating a decade of DSD.
Now that we know about the birth of your baby (DSD), can you elaborate on its initial journey, especially with Keynote & PowerPoint?
So, in the beginning, technology was limited. 3D was not a reality. Since I was always passionate about education, I was very familiar with Keynote and PowerPoint even before DSD. I was in charge of putting together my lectures and the lectures of many of the doctors that I was working for as a ceramist. I loved it. Translating our excellent cases into lectures was a great hobby for me. I always loved to explore better ways to educate people, express our ideas and decision-making process. So I was never into just showing off a beautiful case. I wanted to teach people why we were doing what we were doing in each rehabilitation step. So I became an expert on using Keynote/PowerPoint to visually explain all the decisions and what was done. What naturally happened was that I realized that in many cases, I ended up understanding much better the case as I was building the lecture of the case after the case was done. I was able to identify mistakes that we did or bad decisions, or possible improvements. I was becoming an expert on the ideal plan for that particular case a little too late since the case was already finished. So I realized that all the slides I was building, all drawings and graphics that I was producing were great ways to explore the case and should be done before performing and not after. So I decided to transform Keynote/PowerPoint into my "Dental Software" to organize the patient documentation, develop a possible smile design, create simulations, explore the functional-esthetic integration, and communicate with the team. It also naturally became the best way to present treatment plans to patients. The final development was to find a way to connect the 2D design from Keynote to the working model, so I developed the Digital Ruler and the workflow to transfer the information from the slide to the diagnostic wax-up and then into the smile test drive with the motivational mock-up. That is how the DSD slogan started: Design>Plan>Sell with Keynote.
When did you feel the need to develop a software or an app for DSD, and why did you feel the need for it?
Around 2013 the DSD workflow was useful, and I was travelling worldwide to teach it. However, it was clear that a 2D digital plus 3D handmade was good but not ideal. A full 3D digital solution was necessary. I started to collaborate with the software company Nemotec to bring all these ideas into a complete facially driven interdisciplinary software platform. Today, this solution is the main one we use, but it is not very easy and aimed at software expert users, not for clinicians. So I always had the idea of creating an easy starting point that could substitute the initial Keynote 2D design and link into the 3D world to allow dentists to control the case without having to buy or learn complex technology. In my vision, dentists should do the easy part and outsource the intricate part of technology.
I have been with you since the beginning of the DSD journey. I feel DSD has matured a lot in the last ten years? When did it come to your mind to shift from manual DSD protocols to more predictable digital protocols?
As I always say: "High quality handmade is for few, high-quality digital is for all". I believe that through excellent and realistic digital workflows, we can democratize quality. Digital, when well understood, can help more dentists serve better more patients. That is an apparent reason why every smart company in any area digitalizes all systems. It is to standardize the quality of products, procedures, and services. Dentistry is not different. The clinics pursuing digitalization will increase their chances of delivering quality care and consequently increasing the chances of success.
Earlier, the word 'DIGITAL' in DSD had a different meaning. Now I feel the same word in DSD has the perfect meaning? What is your take on it?
Yes, you are correct. When I started using the name Digital Smile Design-DSD, it was more focused on designing better smiles with the help of digital tools. Now the concept is much broader and has become a full set of strategies to transform a dental office from doing everyday dentistry to exclusive life-changing dentistry. So, in the beginning, DSD was a technique. Nowadays, it is a whole philosophy of managing this modern smile rehabilitation clinic from all aspects.
The present 'NEW DSD' is much more comfortable, predictable & more accurate is for sure. How did you or with whose help you enhanced the New DSD Protocol?
As I mentioned before, DSD became a whole philosophy of how to manage a modern clinic. So it involves new strategies to market, organizing the team, implementing communication protocols, improving treatment planning and case acceptance, implementing digital technologies, performing better clinical and technical procedures, etc. To answer this question, I need to know which part of the DSD concept you are talking about. If you are talking about the process of designing a smile in harmony with a face and consequently diagnosing the problems and planning the solutions, yes, the workflow is much more efficient today. It is just a natural evolution. We have been doing it for so long that now we know how to do it better. Technology has matured, and even doctors are well acquainted with digital solutions. So it is just a natural process of evolution, and it will continue to get better. For example, we learned how to train designers to design beautiful smiles to deliver more and better designs. We learned how to standardize, as much as possible, the process of treatment planning, so now our support is more effective, and doctors using us are making better decisions for their patients with our help. Nobody in the world did more facially driven smile designs than us and more 3D digital interdisciplinary planning than us, so we are becoming better and better with it. We are the first, and still, the only interdisciplinary planning centre in the world and the fact that despite our success, other companies did not explore creating similar services shows how challenging it is to create a team and use proper technology to help doctors benefit from super complex treatment planning principles that we learned from mentors.
In the last ten years, you have grown leaps and bounds with the help of DSD, who all you think contributed to your success story. Is it the DSD World Tour, DSD Instructors & Opinion Leaders, Family? Can you tell us more about it?
Ohhh... this is a long list of people. So many people helped me. I learned from so many. DSD is a consequence of all the incredible people that crossed my life — starting with my visionary father, my first mentor. Also, my mother, a great storyteller and teacher, never settled with the status quo. I grew up learning from them how to think outside the box, how to be creative and how to believe in your dreams. My passion for smile rehabilitation was empowered by my early dental mentors, Drs Paulo Kano and Dario Adolfi, great dentists and technicians. My life-lasting partnership with Dr Marcelo Calamita was crucial for my development in the functional side of dentistry. My five years working with Team Atlanta transformed me into an international speaker. My years in Europe, working with Drs Van Dooren, Gurel, Bichaho, Fradeani, and Ricci, made me a great ceramist and smile designer. During the early days of DSD, Livio Yoshinaga and Florin Cofar helped me develop some significant concepts. From 2013 on, I started to meet several great people in business and marketers that helped me learn the other side of DSD, the non-clinical one. However, above all, I am very proud of the existing team that I was able to build, starting with my family involved in the business and all existing DSD partners. I learn so much from all of them every day. I always knew that success is not about being great in so many things but instead building great teams. I do not have a business background and am not a professional CEO, but I am proud that I could attract great people from the beginning.
How and when did the idea of worldwide DSD CLINICS come into your brain, how many DSD Clinics are already functioning, and your target number in coming years?
So, this is the most critical DSD project today. The whole company's efforts are towards making the DSD Clinics projects a success. We realized that DSD ideas are not mainstream ideas. They fit perfectly with a more exclusive group of clinic owners that understand and value the DSD solutions. We realized that we better serve a smaller group with super quality than creating average solutions for thousands to use. All DSD services and products are super exclusive and depend on very high-end people that are hard to scale. So to keep the quality, we need to stay exclusive. So "DSD Exclusive" is the DSD Clinics project. We decided we will invest energy to envision us as their leading partner to succeed. From everybody who does our courses worldwide, we handpick the ones that fit this profile. We start the journey together by incorporating all DSD ideas, training their staff, and preparing their facilities. This is what we call the DSD journey, and it starts after the course. Usually, in 3 to 6 months, the clinics are ready to get our official DSD stamp and marketing and become part of the worldwide DSD Clinic network. Today we have 60 clinics in the network and dozens on the pipeline. Every clinic has exclusivity in its area and also access to our exclusive design and planning services. From diagnosis to final restorations, from emotional dentistry to marketing.
DSD Planning Centre is the present & the future of Dentistry for sure. Can you tell us more about it?
As I said, we are very proud of the DSD Planning Center. The concept of an interdisciplinary centre that uses high-end 3D technologies and has a top interdisciplinary team gives dentists exceptional support to perform better in what I believe is the most challenging part of dentistry: diagnostics and planning. It is a concept that we invented, we are still the only ones, but I believe this will be the norm in the future, and many companies will provide similar support. Dentists need help with planning and technology adoption, and that is precisely what we do. We shorten the doctor's learning curve, and we allow doctors to benefit from technology without having to learn or buy all the technology. It is common sense today that technology can help doctors make better decisions for their patients, better diagnostics, better planning, better communication and better execution. So our goal is to bring all these benefits to the patients of our dentist users.
A personal question. How did you rope in your whole family into making a DSD Company? Moreover, the bigger question, how did they all agree? Is it the trust in you, is it that they believed in you like I have been believing you and trusting you since we met in 2011 or did they see a business potential? Very hard to find such examples in today's world.
Good question. Since ever we have been working together. During dental school, my brother and I were already working for my father. When I started DSD, my mom needed a job, so I hired her as my assistant. She still works today for DSD. As DSD grew a little, I needed more help, and my younger brother John was tired of his current job, so I invited him to join. He has been growing in the company since then and became a partner in the business. My older brother was my father's right arm in our clinic in Brazil and was doing an excellent job as a clinician and as a treatment planner. However, he wanted to move away from Brazil and have an international experience with the whole family. At this point, I was building the idea of the DSD Planning Center in partnership with Nemotec and my former business partner from Madrid. We decided that Madrid would be the best place to start this project, so I invited my brother to move to Madrid and run it. He did it, and today he is still the DSD Planning Centre director together with his wife. My sister did my social media and PR for a while, and now she has her career. Just a few months ago, my older son finished his business school and joined the company and is doing a great job already. DSD started as a family business, and I feel very privileged to work with my family. I admire them, and I am 100% sure that despite the challenges of working with family, the company is much stronger.
When are you getting pregnant again with an idea or a concept, and when do you intend to deliver your next baby to the world of dentistry? Knowing you quite well, I am sure you are already having one in your brain.
Hahaha. There is so much work to be done in the DSD company today to make all the DSD ideas become a reality for more dentists that, honestly, I do not have much time to think about new things right now. We came up with so many good ideas for a decade; now, it is time to make them an even more seamless routine for our DSD clinicians and us.
According to me, it is time for the next DSD World Tour. Are you planning for the same?
Yes! The 2021/22 season is being planned right now. During the years of 2013-14 and 15, we created the DSD World Tour concept, and I was all over, being on the road for an average of two-thirds of the year and giving DSD courses every other week everywhere around the globe. From 2016 till 2019, we created the DSD Residency program and decided to stop the world tour and only give our centres' courses. So from me going to everybody everywhere, we decided to invite people to come to us. It worked very well. Then COVID19 came… After all this stress and seeing how much people want to be with us in person, and wanting to open new markets again, we decided to create a DSD Residency World Tour. Starting in the second half of 2021, we will be in Madrid, London, Germany, Italy, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Miami and LA. See you all in 2021/22.
One last question. What is that one all-important lesson you learnt in life during the pandemic, and what is your message to the dentists worldwide?
I learned some fundamental lessons this year. I learned that many things feel essential in life, but only a few things are crucial. Another lesson that I learned is that we, high-class western society, are all very spoiled, discomfort and uncertainty drives us crazy, so we should stop taking for granted our fabulous lifestyle. We need to understand better the consequences to the world of keeping our lifestyle. Another lesson is that I realize how much I love people, friendships and in-person interactions, and that is another thing that I will never take for granted again.
More about Dr Christian Coachman:
- Apart from Digital Smile Design, Dr Coachman is the developer of several other globally popular concepts such as Pink Hybrid Implant Restoration, Digital Planning Center, Emotional Dentistry, Interdisciplinary Treatment Simulation and Digital Smile Donator.
- Dr Coachman has worked with some of the world's most renowned dentists, such as Eric Van Dooren (Belgium), Galip Gurel (Turkey), Mauro Fradeani (Italy), Nitzan Bichacho (Israel), Andrea Ricci (Italy), Mario Groisman (Brazil) and Marcelo Calamita (Brazil).
- In 2004, Dr Coachman was invited by Drs. Goldstein, Garber, and Salama, to join Team Atlanta as the Head Ceramist of their laboratory – a position he held for five years.
- He is one of the most renowned speakers in the international dental lecturing circuit. He has published internationally in esthetic and digital dentistry, oral rehabilitation, innovation and trends, communication and marketing strategies in dentistry.
Author: Dr Rajiv Verma
A graduate of Government Dental College & Hospital, Mumbai, Dr Rajiv Verma is in dentistry for 34 long years. His command on the subject of Clinical Prosthodontics has been witnessed to date by more than 30000+ dentists & 3800+ hands-on course participants. All of this has come through his 600+ lectures, presentations, live on patient demos, live on video shows at Famdent Conferences, WDA, DDS, FDI-CDE Programmes, Local, State & at National IDA Conferences & his 247 Hands-On Course Batches of Porcelain Veneers, Crown & Bridge, Bonded Restorations and 26 batches of DSD - Digital Smile Design at his clinic at Thane, at ICODE, Delhi & 8 more centres across India. His is one of the longest-running course in India.