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.

This holidays, if you want to be a better writer, don’t binge eat – binge read!

Image source: Corbis via Jennifer Armstrong article in BBC News.

Image source: Matthias Tunger, Corbis Photographer, via Jennifer Armstrong article in BBC News.

I can’t say I’m a stranger to binge eating, or even binge TV-watching. But with the holidays coming up, I can think of something much healthier to do with my time.

Binge reading.

It’s been a lot time since the last binges, and I was a lot younger. I remember the Harry Potter books being devoured especially quickly and ferociously. Having to wait a year or more between books was torture back then!

Thankfully, when it came time to dive into the Tomorrow when the war began series by John Marsden, most of them had already been written, so I didn’t have to wait between books. I just had to scour every bookshop at every shopping centre near me until I had collected every book.

"One does not simply read the first Divergent book; you binge read them all then regret the third one immediately." Image source: MemeCreator image created by me :)

Image source: MemeCreator image created by me 🙂

More recently, there’s been the Divergent and Hunger Games series. (Tangent: Don’t you wish ‘serieses’ was a word? Sigh.) Again, I didn’t know about them until my Youth Group kids told me the movies were coming out. Sweeeeet!

Now yes, if you go too far too fast with binge reading you still feel as awful as if you’d binged on food or drink. You feel full and a little dazed, starved of sunlight (unless you have an awesome reading window or back porch) and kind of wilting from lack of exercise.

But it’s still the most productive of binge behaviours, since it helps you write better when you get back to your own stuff. Phil Edwards in the Huffington Post talks about his experience of reading 300 books in 2013, and how it actually helped him to know more (he wrote for a trivia site to prove it) and write better.

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