April 06, 2017

Nuggets players, from left, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkić count on team dentist Alison Hoover '07. Photo by EJ Carr

Alison Hoover '07 keeps the Denver Nuggets' smiles in good working order

By Benjamin Gleisser

It’s two hours before game time at the Pepsi Center, the arena home of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, and Alison Hoover '07, one of the Nuggets’ team dentists, is visiting the locker room to check on the players’ dental health.

As Hoover chats with a few players, especially the ones who have stopped by the office for prior appointments, she glances at their mouths. Everything seems fine. She’ll check back again during halftime, then pay one more visit to the locker room after the game. Unless a player chips a tooth while taking an elbow to the face, or a loose ball accidentally bounces off his jaw, she’ll sit on the sidelines with other medical professionals employed by the Nuggets and enjoy the game like any other spectator.

“During play, it’s sometimes hard to tell if I’ll need to check someone’s mouth,” she says. “After a foul or a player goes down on the court, I start watching to see how the player is reacting. Sometimes after the adrenaline of playing wears off, a player will realize something’s not right with his mouth. Luckily, I’ve never seen a doctor need to run out onto the court during a game, but we’re there if needed.”

Hoover is one of the five dentists with Southbridge Dentistry in Littleton, Colo., the practice that has served the Nuggets since 2010. They’re the team watching over the Nuggets’ dental health. One dentist attends each Nuggets home game, and tonight is Hoover’s turn. This is her second basketball season with Southbridge Dentistry.

“It was a little intimidating when I first started,” Hoover says with a laugh. “There I was walking into an NBA medical training room to practice dentistry. It was a new environment with some pretty famous faces. Now I’m regularly there, and a lot more comfortable working with the players.”

On off days, the players visit Southbridge Dentistry’s office for the usual reasons: six-month checkups, tooth whitening, crowns, wisdom-tooth extraction and fillings. Southbridge Dentistry also makes custom mouth guards for the players.

“Overall, the players are great,” she says. Though some athletes are hesitant to visit the dentist, she says no one fidgets, cries or tightly grips the armrests during procedures.

“Nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas, is available if anyone wants it,” Hoover says. “The biggest difficulty we encounter is players who are too tall for the dentist chairs.”

As a little girl, Hoover loved studying science as much as she loved playing team sports. Hoover decided in high school that she wanted to be a dentist because she liked the idea of working with patients on a regular basis.

She chose Bucknell, where she majored in biology, because it had a strong lab program and offered intimate classes where it was easy to participate and get one-on-one attention from the professors.

Hoover earned her dentistry degree in 2011 at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. She then went on to complete a yearlong general-practice residency in Seattle. After working in a different private practice, she joined Southbridge Dentistry in 2015. There, besides NBA stars and other professional athletes, she works with patients from all walks of life. She is particularly honored to serve another group of patients.

“We provide free dentistry to veterans on Veterans Day,” she says. “That’s my favorite day to work. I appreciate what they do for us, and it’s very rewarding to be able to give something back to them. I listen to their stories, and I’ve had some tears working with them.”