As Midlothian basketball player Caleb Jordan waited for a second round of "goop," fellow hoopster Kaden Archie couldn't contain himself.
"I told you your mouth was big," teased Archie inside the Dental Care of Midlothian examination room.
On the dime of Phil Johnson, DDS, the Panther basketball team was recently fitted for custom mouthguards. Jordan needed a second fitting with four scoops of powder, instead of three, after his first mold failed to reach his molars. He did get the last laugh though — Archie later received the same treatment.
"It was an interesting experience for sure," Archie said.
"Basketball has always been a passion," stated Dr. Johnson, who has lived in Midlothian for three years and moved to the Dallas area just before beginning dental school at the Baylor College of Dentistry.
Johnson purchased his dental practice about six months ago but has been practicing in the area for several years. He and his wife chose Midlothian because of the outstanding public-education opportunities and overall community feel.
Johnson played high school basketball for Kingwood High in the Houston area, defeating perennial-power DeSoto to win the school's lone state basketball championship.
Since his playing days, Johnson has remained active, often playing with high school coaches on Saturday mornings and in recreational leagues. Those relationships led to his first dive into the giving-back pool — mouthguards.
Because he now owns the practice, Thursday, Dec. 14 marked the first time he has had the opportunity to give back to local athletes. The custom-fit protective gear was also delivered to the team last week, just in time for their second round of district play and a playoff push.
It's an opportunity that he cherishes.
"It is great and I love it. This is the first time that I've been able to make the decisions and make those kinds of choices," Johnson said. "Once I got the opportunity, it didn't take long. I told several of the high school coaches that I'm friends with that I wanted to be involved in sports programs in Midlothian and that I wanted to give back. I think doing mouthguards is my way to do that.”
Livestrong.com lists two primary reasons for basketball players turning to a mouthguard for protection — inadvertent (or sometimes intentional) elbows to the mouth while rebounding and overall confidence to drive the lane.
"Most players who have played basketball for any length of time have been hit by an errant shot to the mouth," the Livestrong.com article states. "Wearing a mouthguard can give a player confidence that he won't suffer a significant injury, enabling him to play the game with freedom and confidence."
"Just in my short time here I've dealt with quite a few people who have mouth injuries from sports and I know that I had a few injuries from playing sports, so I think that mouthguards are a great way to prevent those," Johnson said. "Custom-fit mouth guards are expensive, but it is a great way to protect the kids."
Johnson added, "Football is obviously a big one [for injuries], but mouthguards are important to basketball too. From chipping teeth to losing teeth to jaw injuries, a mouth guard can help prevent a lot of those. They can also help prevent concussions and help soften those blows. They help protect your teeth as well as your head and your jaw. You'd be surprised at how important they are to basketball. You will see a lot of the NBA players wearing mouth guards nowadays."
According to a 2016 NYTimes article, former NBA commissioner David Stern, who ran the league from 1984—2014, wrote in an email that it made sense that players might want to protect themselves “in the event of ‘inadvertent’ elbows.”
Of course, for professional players like Golden State point guard Steph Curry, the molded mouthpiece can also be hurled through the air toward an official. The act will result in an immediate technical foul so is far from encouraged.
When not fixing the teeth of Midlothian residents, Johnson said he loves attending Midlothian Panther and Lady Panther basketball games with his four-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.
"We love going to the games, so I already feel like I know them (the players), but they had never met me. It was fun to get in there and get to know their personalities," said Johnson of the fitting experience. "They are a great group of kids, and I look forward to watching them have a great season."
Dental Center of Midlothian is located in the shopping center next to Anytime Fitness at 800 Silken Crossing, suite 112. The office can be reached at (972) 723-3567.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith