What Flossing Teeth Taught Me About Behavior Change
Teeth flossing is not a rocket science. I always say knowing is not enough, and you must act on what you know to benefit from your knowledge. One of my mantras is: learn, practice, reflect. I take it to heart to continue learning in my life and try to apply what I learn to get better everyday. I also try to experiment and see what works for me best. But why teeth flossing wasn’t working for me (and it does for other people) after I put so much effort into it?
In that line of thought, I know flossing once a day is a recommended practice. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends flossing once a day and brushing the teeth twice a day. Although, there is no significant research data backing up dentists’ recommendations to floss once a day, it is a no brainer to me that extra teeth cleaning is a good thing. Flossing teeth helps reduce the risk of gum disease. Research links dental health with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. So, I know flossing once a day is a good and healthy habit. But I struggled and struggled to do it for years.
Teeth Flossing Experiments
I did many experiments to try and floss every day. I tried different time of the day, before or after teeth brushing, different type of floss, different approaches and many more. My initial goal was to include the teeth flossing as part of one of my established well working routines.
Timing The Flossing
- First, I tried flossing in the morning. It proved to be hard because I constantly run late to drop off the kids to school. The first thing my brain drops from the to do list in the morning – flossing!
- Then I tried in the evening before bed. This approach proved to be hard too because I am so tired after a long day that I skip things that my brain lets me get away with.
- I tried flossing in the car (works for my husband!). Unfortunately, this was not for me. I hate when I divide my attention from the road to something else.
- I tried flossing at work after lunch in the bathroom. Nope, I didn’t like when people stared at me thinking “What is she doing?”
Different Types Of Flosses
- Then I tried different types of flosses. I tried the string floss used by the hygienists after routine teeth cleaning. That was too messy for me.
- Then I tried the stick flosses (several brands) still wasn’t doing it.
Different Approaches To Good Teeth Flossing Habits
I have read many materials, listened to many recordings, webinars, etc. on how to adopt good habits and convert bad habits into good habits. I “know” how to do it and have helped countless people to get to where they want to go! So, I pulled my sleeves up and tried the following just to name a few:
- I paid extra close attention to the triggers. Why wasn’t I flossing my teeth. What happen before I tried to floss, and after I failed. I brush my teeth every day, why was it different from flossing.
- Then, I listened to my emotions. What were they telling me? What was going on? I wanted to notice what was that side of the brain telling me, why wasn’t I so excited to floss my own teeth. I learned that I just didn’t enjoy it. Well, that wasn’t helpful.
- I did pros and cons analysis. Well of course, the pros outweighed the cons (dah…). Of course, flossing teeth is important to me. However, I still wasn’t flossing my teeth every day
- I tried tracking to show myself I had progress. I wanted to pat myself on the back that although I don’t do it every day, at least I did it 5 days out of the week. Still, didn’t work for me. 2, 3 days out of 7 wasn’t a good flossing habit to me.
- Next, I did visualization techniques. I imagined how it felt when I flossed my teeth. I imagined how proud and happy I was after flossing my teeth. That felt good, but for whatever reason I would still fail to do it every day even after enjoying the happiness benefit of success.
- And on and on … Of course, flossing teeth was my year resolution for at least 3 years in the past 🙂
Then I decided to dig deep and figure out why was such a simple thing so hard to do. I knew it was the right thing to do. I tried different approaches. What was sabotaging me? What was the root cause? Maybe if I knew the root cause, I could fix the problem. I know myself well so I should be able to figure it out. Well, I couldn’t. I still don’t know why it is so hard for me to floss once a day with the regular manual flosses. Yes, you got it right – I still don’t know the root cause, although I am now flossing my teeth every day. Here is how it happened.
Being aware of my shortcoming and knowing flossing teeth is a good habit, I was frustrated with myself that I can’t do it. Then years passed, I gave up trying to floss every day and beat myself I was a failure. I told myself, I will just do my best. And then few years later, I got my braces. See some of my other life changing events when I got my braces HERE. During the braces appointment, I was given a water pick. And BAM! The water pick did the trick. For whatever reason it is much easier for me to use the water pick than the manual floss. I don’t understand why, but it works! Turned out that the water pick is even better for me than using the manual floss. It massages my gums and I no longer have bleeding gums. My hygienist is happier than ever before.
And here is my solution I have been looking for over 5 years now. It came to me by coincidence, but I was ready to adopt it because I knew what I wanted, I tried several things in the past that failed, and when a new way of doing things felt good, I was prepared to adopt the habit.
What I learned from my teeth flossing experience is that even if you learn and try to apply the knowledge it may not work right away. However, over time your brain remembers what you have focused on and worked on and will keep an eye out for you for the perfect storm. A perfect storm, where your knowledge, prior failed trials and future opportunities along time collide to get you to the desired state. So, we suggest:
- Continue learning
- Keep trying and don’t beat yourself up if you fail
- Look for new opportunities and ways to improve on current habits
- Time is a key ingredient to success. Don’t rush it
How about you? Are you struggling to go to the gym? Have you had similar experiences? Share a comment below. We love to hear what you have gone through and what happened (or is still happening).
* Information and statements made by be Healthy be Happy are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. be Healthy be Happy does not provide medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by be Healthy be Happy are not to replace conventional medical service. Any choices and decisions you are making are at your own risk. If you have a medical condition or health concern, contact your physician.