Not many orthodontists can say they used to play professional hockey, but Dr. James Fraser is not your typical orthodontist — not long before joining TDR Specialists in Orthodontics in Brighton, he was playing for minor league affiliates of the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.
Born and raised in Port Huron, Fraser’s journey from high-flying forward to friendly neighborhood orthodontist seems only natural given his family background.
“My dad is a dentist who also played hockey,” said Fraser, “so I have developed a passion for both dentistry and hockey from any early age”
From the age of nine, Fraser played youth hockey throughout Metro Detroit — forming close bonds with many of his Honeybaked AAA teammates and quickly falling in love with the sport. During his junior and senior years of high school, he became captain of the USA Hockey National Team.
As a leader on the USA U-17 and U-18 teams, Fraser displayed elite talent against NCAA and international teams — culminating in first-place finishes at the Five Nations, Four Nations and U-18 World Championships. Several of his teammates were recruited to collegiate, Olympic and NHL teams.
After high school, Fraser attended Harvard University, where he played Division I hockey all four years. During his freshman year, he led all Crimson rookies in points and was only one of two freshmen to play every game. With an innate knack for motivation and keeping the team together, he was elected as the Crimson’s team captain his senior season.
After graduating Harvard, Fraser was invited to try out for the Boston Bruins’ minor league team, the Providence Bruins, and later moved to the Philadelphia Flyers-affiliated Reading Royals.
“I was fortunate to always be on really good teams,” Fraser said “I enjoyed motivating people to be their best, which is something I try to translate at TDR. I want my patients to realize how awesome they are.”
The Road to Creating Smiles
Dentistry has always been a significant part of Fraser’s life — both his father and older sister are practicing general dentists, and his mother is a dental hygienist. Witnessing the fruits of their labor, he always had it in his mind that he would one day follow in his family’s footsteps.
While playing professional hockey, Fraser came to appreciate his education and the role it played in his life. After a year in the big leagues, he made the decision to hang up his skates, move back to his home state, and pursue a long-term career in dentistry.
Fraser attended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, the top-ranked dental school in the United States, and the second university in the country to offer education in dentistry. Harvard was the first.
After graduating from dental school, Fraser was drawn to the field of orthodontics — the desire to create better smiles and help patients boost their self-confidence simply seemed the right path.
Fraser went on to complete three years of orthodontic specialty training at the University at Buffalo. There, he researched the anatomical limits of tooth movement and utilized advanced 3D imaging technology to improve efficiency and success of orthodontic treatment.
Planting Roots in Livingston County
Upon graduation, Fraser returned to Michigan, married his wife, Alyssa, and found a home in TDR Specialists in Orthodontics’ Brighton/Howell office. He now applies many of the lessons he learned playing hockey to his orthodontic practice.
“I believe success is based in trusting one another and surrounding yourself with great people from which to learn and grow from,” Fraser said. “At TDR, we as a team help the practice become successful each day. Teamwork and humility go a long way in hockey, but even further in life, and that’s something both TDR and I take great pride in.”
Fraser is now excited to be partnering with Dr. Gordon Niles, a true master in his field and a beloved community leader for more than three decades. He hopes to build on Niles’ success and work with TDR to coordinate community events, charitable programs, and, of course, sports initiatives.
“I’ve heard of the great reputation Livingston County has for hockey and hope to be a mentor to some of the young and talented players in the community,” Fraser said. “As my wife and I settle in, I look forward to getting fully ingrained into the area’s hockey culture.”