We’ve all been there before. The semiannual dental check up arrives and a good-natured dental hygienist takes a look at your gums. The nerves set in as she says the magic words: “Have you been flossing?”
For most people, sticking with a flossing regimen is an all or nothing scenario. Either you floss daily and consistently or you floss one day a year and never again. That day just happens to be the day after post-hygienist guilt sets in.
So how can you learn to stick with a flossing regimen? Below are some tips and tricks for committing to that healthy smile.
1. Recognize the Risks
The two days you see the dental hygienist are the only days in a year you are likely to be reminded of all the damaging health side effects and negative outcomes that can result from “forgetting” to floss. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself of these facts:
- Flossing promotes cavity prevention.
- According to mouthhealthy.org, a resource of the American Dental Association, “It is extremely important to floss because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning.”
- Flossing prevents gum disease. If you fail to floss on a daily basis, you are creating an environment in your mouth that is conducive to developing gingivitis and later periodontitis. WebMD.com states the outcome clearly: “Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.”
- Gum disease can happen to you and eventually it will lead to increased dental health care costs and discomfort. An aesthetically pleasing smile is not one that is missing a tooth.
2. Start Small
Take advantage of your smartphone and set a calendar alert for once a week to floss.
Going whole hog with a new habit is a guaranteed way to give up when you’ve hardly even tried. Instead, set a small and achievable goal for the first few weeks and then incrementally build up to a daily flossing habit.
Just because it takes up very little time in your daily schedule and by most estimates would be considered an “easy” activity, doesn’t mean committing to flossing isn’t a significant and difficult paradigm shift. Recognize this and take action, whether it be big or small.
Most importantly, remind yourself that a beautiful smile is part of the total health package. One small change in your daily health regimen can make all the difference. Remember how good it will feel to impress your family dental hygienist at the next appointment!