When Fred Van Vleet got a chipped tooth during the NBA playoffs, Toronto dentist Peter Nkansah patched him up. The injury happened during a high-profile collision with an opponent’s elbow, in an episode that became known as “toothgate.” Since the crash took place during a road game, Nkansah wasn’t on site, but he handled the injury once the team returned home.
Nkansah is the team dentist for the Toronto Raptors, the 2019 NBA champions. He has been with the team since Day One and, thanks to this volunteer position, watched their highs and lows from a seat with easy access to the locker room.
“I like that I’m close to basketball and at least peripherally involved in what is easily the best league in the world,” Nkansah told the U of T Faculty of Dentistry’s online news. “It has been a fascinating journey.”
The former co-captain of the U of T Varsity Blues’ basketball team is available during home games to treat Raptors players, as well as the opposing team, the referees and the broadcast crew. He estimates that is called upon during about one-third of the contests.
“The time pressures in the NBA are intense, which means that instant turnaround is not only preferred but expected,” he told the Canadian Dental Association Journal. “In a business where 15 players make up the face of a high profile, multimillion-dollar company, one player’s absence can affect the whole team’s performance.”
The life of an NBA dentist isn’t just about handling dental emergencies on court. Nkansah attends training camp each year and conducts routine oral examinations for all of the players and the coaching staff. He fits all of the new players with mouthguards – fans of Steph Curry, take note — whether they choose to use them or not. Nkansah also co-ordinates care for the players, coaches and their families during the season.
However, there are undeniable glamorous benefits, such as getting to know elite athletes in his sport of choice and being part of the team’s success. Nkansah rode the team bus through Toronto during the 2019 Championship Parade, an event that will undoubtedly be filed in his personal cabinet of fondest life memories.
For Nkansah, there is also life as a dentist beyond Raptors basketball. In addition to working with patients who fear dentistry or are medically compromised, he is an associate professor at the U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry, he sits on the editorial board of Oral Health Magazine, and he is the current president of Canadian Academy of Dental Anesthesia.
His crowded days and nights also involve time with his family – a wife and three children. Sometimes, Nkansah even manages to find free time for his own non-hoops interests: exercise, reading, music and travel.
It’s a good life for a dentist with a sweet tooth for basketball.