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Raptors' dentist preps for NBA All-Star Game: “When they're hit, they're hit hard”

“Teeth go through lips, teeth get broken or knocked out,” Peter Nkansah says

When players are injured in a game “they have to be patched up and recovered as quickly as possible,” Assistant Professor Peter Nkansah says (photo by Ron Turenne/MLSE)

He’s a U of T alumnus with a specialty in dental anaesthesia, an editorial board member of Oral Health Magazine, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Dentistry and a dentist with his own specialty practice. 

But Peter Nkansah is also one other thing: dentist to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.

“I teach at the Faculty one day a week, and run my practice four days a week, as well as one Saturday a month,” Nkansah says.

“I’d say I spend about one per cent of my clinical time as the team’s dental consultant. I’ll be on site for the 41 regular season games, plus playoff and exhibition games.

“But this year will be a little special because of the All-Star game.”

Read more about the All-Star Game

What kind of dentistry do you perform on the teams during a game, and how often does this occur?
I’d say the times when I actually have to put on gloves is fairly rare – maybe every 10 to 15 games. I will also treat the visiting team’s players and the refs, as well as the broadcasters. 

Basketball players need every kind of dentistry – the additional thing is trauma. NBA basketball involves big guys, and when they’re hit, they’re hit hard. Teeth go through lips, teeth get broken or knocked out. They have to be patched up and recovered as quickly as possible.

Do you have a favourite player?
I have a list of favourites. If a player shows respect for the game and works hard, I like them.

I like Golden State Warrior’s Steph Curry. Not only is he a student of the game but his father Dell Curry played here for two years. Steph would have been a 12-year old at the time. I used to watch this kid practice. He’d shoot and shoot and now he’s the most dangerous shooter on the planet.

How did you come to work for the Raptors?
I’ve been with the Raptors since they started in ’95. I played Varsity Basketball at U of T and came to know the head of the MacIntosh Sports Medicine Clinic here, Dr. Doug Richards. I ran into him again in 1994 at the World Championships of Basketball where I happened to be working, [which led] to me being a pencilled-in part of the team submission for the Raptors’ health care. 

What is your favourite part of being the dental consultant for the Raptors?
I like that I’m close to basketball and at least peripherally involved in what is easily the best league in the world. It has been a fascinating journey and I have gained a greater appreciation for how hard the lifestyle is: there’s nothing covering your face. And you’re constantly on the road. You need to be very disciplined to sleep and eat properly in order to allow you to keep playing to the best of your abilities.