Dear Dentist | An Open Letter to the Dental Profession

Dear dentist,

Yes, I occasionally grind my teeth when I’m stressed.

Yes, I do have some minor tooth stains from a coffee addiction – but as you know, I have a 1-year-old who doesn’t sleep much.

And yes, I do very often breathe through my mouth when I sleep, because my allergies make my nose get blocked when I lie down at night.

But here’s the thing you never seem to mention…

I have a great smile.

My teeth aren’t that crooked, thanks to orthodontic braces my parents paid a small fortune for when I was a teenager.

I brush and floss my teeth twice a day, every day. (A feat I consider to be nothing less than amazing, especially because when I was a kid you could not PAY me to floss.)

I have zero cavities, filings, or other common dental “problems”, thanks to eating pretty healthy, regular check ups, and the aforementioned teeth brushing.

I even use mouthwash, because I care not just about being clean but also smelling like a mint garden for the sake of those around me.

So why don’t you mention any of that?

Behavioural science has conclusively proven that positive reinforcement like, “Great flossing! You should be so proud that you still have no fillings at 31.” is endlessly more effective in getting me to take the positive health actions you want, rather than starting each check up with a cursory, “Still a teeth-grinder, eh?”

No one likes going to the dentist. No one. Cleaning is sometimes painful, you always feel like you’re going to choke on your own spit, which is a dreadfully unpleasant experience, and your health insurance fund never pays as much as their shiny advertising seems to suggest they will.

And you wonder why so many 50-year-olds are coming to you for an emergency root canal and crowns?

Oh but hold the phone! I accidentally cheated on you – I needed a check up on a Tuesday and apparently you don’t work that day, so I tried someone else.

They were younger.


And they noticed that I have a lovely smile.

Also, when I said I had a kid, they showed me a photo of their kids and gave me their best tips to make tooth brushing fun – for both of us!

Oh, the best bit – they partner with several health funds to provide two free check ups per year per family. So it didn’t even cost me A CENT to see them!

So let’s just say I hope you learn something from me leaving, even though I doubt you noticed.

Improve, dear dentist, or be left behind by everyone but those emergency root canals we mentioned earlier.

All the best,


TJ Withers-Ryan and baby Zoe
Two happy smiles – priceless

(C) TJ Withers-Ryan, 2020.