When he first went to college, Kristopher Rappold was interested in one thing: playing football.
“Over time I realized that football was not going to be a career and I decided to look around a bit,” Dr. Rappold said.
His uncle, a dentist, set him up with job shadowing opportunities with several practicing dentists, and he was inspired to attend dental school.
By his own admission, Dr. Rappold “wasn’t a natural by any means” and struggled in his classes. He spent hours outside of class in the dental lab practicing. His extra work paid off and Dr. Rappold graduated from Louisiana State University’s School of Dentistry in 2010 with the rest of his classmates.
After graduation, however, he still wanted to be involved in sports but wasn’t sure how sports and dentistry would fit together as a career.
“It was really just happenstance that the first flyer I ever got in the mail was from the Academy for Sports Dentistry,” Dr. Rappold said. “I just thought, ‘This is so cool.’ I enrolled immediately.”
During an Academy of Sports Dentistry meeting, Dr. Rappold was approached by the team dentist for the New England Patriots, who offered him an opportunity.
The Boston-based dentist saw Dr. Rappold was from New Orleans and said a Louisiana university had asked him to come down to make mouthguards for its football team. He asked Dr. Rappold if he’d like to make the team’s mouthguards instead because he was closer.
“We’re about a four-hour drive from there, but I know when not to say no to an opportunity,” he said. “I’ve made a habit of not saying no. There’s just a way of good opportunities and good people finding you when you make a habit out of [saying yes].”
Dr. Rappold made the drive, took impressions from 106 athletes, and went home to make the mouthguards.
“I’d made one mouthguard for a class, and now I had to do 106 players’ worth,” he said. “I probably had to do almost double of those because I had to learn how to make it as I was doing it, but it ended up working out and I think next year will either be my seventh or eighth season with that team.”
Now he makes custom mouthguards for local high school sports teams and local clubs – from rugby to roller derby to mixed martial arts – and recently visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to make mouthguards for the U.S. Olympic karate and boxing teams.
Dr. Rappold enjoys his day-to-day work seeing patients in his practice, and especially loves working with athletes to protect their smiles – combining his love of sports with dentistry.
“Certainly helping people every day doing fillings and everything else is great, but it’s nice to be able to get some joy out of your work,” Dr. Rappold said. “Not everybody has that opportunity and this is what brings joy to me.”
Dr. Kristopher Rappold is a winner of the 2017 10 Under 10 Award. He practices in New Orleans, Louisiana, and is the president of the New Orleans Dental Association and former Louisiana president for the Academy of General Dentistry.