The Tiny Guide to Creating the Flossing Habit
Adapted from zenhabits.net
Written by Leo Babauta
‘Floss the teeth you want to keep.’ ~dentist, quoted by Nick Crocker
For many years, I rarely flossed, and as a result had some not-so-pleasant dental
problems. I always knew I should have been flossing, but could never make the habit
Creating the habit of flossing is a recent triumph for me, and because I’ve had
a bunch of people ask about flossing, I decided to share what works best.
Let’s start by saying I’m not an expert on flossing. But I do know a thing or two
about creating the habit of flossing, and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
I do know that flossing can fairly quickly improve your dental health. If you haven’t
been flossing, it’s likely that you have some kind of gum infection, and so flossing
will cause some unpleasant (but not really painful) bleeding. That’s normal, and
it will go away after a few days of flossing (at least in my experience).
Your teeth will also start to feel cleaner, which is an amazing experience. And
when you go to the dentist (you should, if you aren’t regularly, trust me), you’ll
get a much better report, and have much less nasty dental work to be done.
Let’s take a look at how to form the habit of flossing.
Forming the Habit
These are the steps that worked for me:
- Pick a trigger. For a habit to be automatic, it needs a trigger—something
that is already in your daily routine. If you already brush your teeth every morning,
regularly, then I suggest that as your trigger. Actually, a better trigger is going
to brush your teeth—say you go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, and reach
for your toothbrush … that’s your trigger. Floss right at that point, before you
brush your teeth, and then brush your teeth after.
- Have a visual reminder. The key is to do the new habit right after
the trigger, but at first you might easily forget. So have the dental floss right
next to your toothbrush, where you won’t forget it. You might also put up a note
next to your bathroom mirror so you can’t possibly forget.
- Floss just one tooth. This is an old idea, but it works well. Start
your habit by just flossing one tooth. It’s so remarkably easy that you won’t be
able to say it’s too hard, or you don’t have the time. It will feel a bit ridiculous,
but just do it. On day two, floss two teeth. Slowly expand every 1–3 days until
you’re flossing all your teeth. Sure, you won’t get the full benefit of flossing
all your teeth at first, but the key is not to get the full benefit but to create
a habit that lasts.
- Focus on the enjoyment. Many people put off flossing because it
seems hard or boring or unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to be. Flossing is a pleasurable
activity if you allow yourself to be present, and think about how your teeth are
getting cleaner and how nice that is. I love the feeling of clean teeth.
- 5. Mark it on your calendar. Every day you floss, mark a big X
on your calendar ( Jerry Seinfeld’s secret). Try to string together a bunch
of Xs, and you’re golden.
That’s really all it takes. Focus on this one habit for a few weeks to a month,
and you’ll have a new flossing habit. Matt Frazier did this, along with a bunch
of other habits, and it helped change his life (read his amazing story). It’s such a simple thing, but it
can change yours too.
As we always say here at dentalinsurance.org, good health includes oral health!
Flossing is important to that equation, and so is dental insurance. To learn more
about purchasing the perfect plan, click here.