Why Don’t You Change Your habits?

So why don’t you take the advice of your dentist? It will really help you.

For those of you who do and are reading this, all I can say is congratulations and thank you. We really do love it when you take our advice and we see you come back with major improvements in your oral hygiene. Keep up the good work!

Unfortunately, the majority of people seen in everyday practice just seem to never quite get on top of it. If this is you and the hygienist or dentist say practically the same thing at every check up- “You need to floss more”, “You’re missing the insides of these teeth”, “You’ve got lots of plaque around,” etc. You know who you are… let’s ask a better question and try to get a clearer understanding together:

What does it take to change?
A nice easy question there. Human psychology and behavior has fascinated me greatly my entire life… why do we do, the things that we do?

The fact is, that there are far too many variables to consider to be able to generalize; there is no golden formula- we are all human and we are all different. There are however certain patterns that we each run, certain needs we all have, and only when enough pain or pleasure is linked to a particular behaviour do we find ourself in a position to make the change. Unless the behaviour is adding value to your life in some way (on a conscious or subconscious level) then it won’t happen repeatedly.’ But I don’t want to do some of the things I do,’ you say… I know, but you still do them because on a deeper level they are giving you a sense of something, be it significance, security, variety or another value.

Change happens in an instant and it lasts as long as there is something empowering to replace it. Motivation can only get you so far, whatever the behaviour, be it to do with smoking, drinking, eating or exercising, it is only when the pain of not changing and the pleasure of changing hits a critical mass do we tend to do it. An example; I have a number of patients who have given up smoking because the pain of loosing their teeth was greater than the pleasure of a nicotine hit. For some, it may take someone close to them dying of lung cancer or some other significant event, it depends.

Changing behaviour consciously is generally not easy to do. Why not let something as simple as perfecting your oral hygiene be the first step in making bigger changes in your life. The principles are all the same.

Stick with me here- this could be the most important page on the whole website.

What is Cause and Effect?

A quick note on cause and effect. As a qualified practionier in neuro-lingusitic programming (NLP for short) this concept is at the base of all change.

It basically asks… are you living at cause or at effect? Do you take responsibility and are you accountable for your actions and the results they produce or do you make excuses based on all manner of things outside your control such as the circumstances and other people?

If you are living at cause then you have the power to change, if you are at effect, you are basically saying the power lies with someone else and that makes it very hard to control.

From my years in practice, I have found that you will fit into one of the following statements when it comes to maintaining proper oral hygiene.

(Note. For those of you who get a glowing report every 6 months from your dentist or hygienitst – keep up the good work!)

  • There are those who can’t do it
  • There are those who don’t want to do it
  • There are those who are too lazy to do it
  • There are those who forget to do it
  • There are those who don’t have the resources
  • There are those who don’t know how to do it
  • There are those who think they know best
  • And there are those that don’t believe in doing it.

These reasons boil down to four things, a lack of:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Skills and tools
  • Motivation
  • Ability.

So which is it for you. Identifying the gaps that stand between you and the rewards of a healthy mouth is key….

I am going to give you everything except the physical toothbrush and floss.

So in order to create a lasting change in your habits- and I am talking any habit:

You need to:

1. Understand why change is important and the harm not changing will do and the pain it will cause.

2. Make this pain from not changing very real to yourself.

3. Find out where you are now? It’s hard to go somewhere when you don’t know where you are starting from. Lets call this A.

4. What is the outcome? Where do you want to be? Lets call this ‘B’.

5. What do you need to do to get from A to B? What tools? Knowledge? Skills? How do you create a good environment for change? What obstacles do you need to overcome?

6. Do it.

7. Reward yourself for doing it.

8. Check in to see how you are going with it.

To be a master of anything, you need to know what you are doing, you need to do it and you need to keep doing it until you don’t even have to think about doing it and then you’ll continue to do it subconsciously.

When it comes to mastering a skill (any skill) there are four levels:

  • Unconscious incompetence is where you don’t know that you don’t know. You are unaware of any problems.
  • Conscious incompetence– you know you don’t know. You become aware that something is lacking.
  • Conscious competence– you know how to do it and you can do it when you think about it. You acquire a skill and you can do it consciously.
  • Unconscious competence- you can now do it automatically without thinking.

The phrase, ‘I could do that with my eyes shut,’ is an example of when someone has become unconsciously competent.

Take any example and you will see how well this fits e.g. tying your shoe lace, you start with velcro shoes –(Unconscious incompetence), you are then presented with a set of shoes with laces and you very quickly see a problem (Conscious incompetence). Your mum or dad teach you to tie your shoes and by carefully following their instructions you can do it (Conscious competence) .Before you know it, you are doing it without even thinking, you have become unconsciously competent.

It is true of any skill and my aim here is to get you unconsciously competent at brushing your teeth. That means, you brush your teeth and floss as you do now without thinking about it but instead of doing a medicocre job you are making those babies squeaky clean.

Most of you know you should brush your teeth, and the majority of you who have seen a dentist fairly recently should know the right tooth brushing technique and how to floss.

This means if you took the time to do it you would be consciously competent- woohoo three stages down and one to go- now its just a matter of practice and perseverance; the last bit will come all on its own.

Lets take you through each of the steps in detail regardless; learn why, what, when and how to brush your teeth once and for all. There aren’t many other things you do twice every single day so you may as well do it right. Here are the links:

Cleaning your teeth

What and when and How of Oral Hygiene:
Interdental brushes
Specialist cleaning for braces, bridges, implants, dentures, splints
Denture care.

Have you heard of SMARTER?

S.M.A.R.T.E.R is a business acroynmn used when setting goals or targets, it stands for:

  • Specific .To remove all plaque from around the teeth
  • Measurable . Plaque collects around your teeth, it can be seen in small amounts with disclosing solution and in larger amounts as soft white deposits around your gums with the naked eye.
  • Attainable. Well I can think of more challenging goals; that said certain medial disabilities and mental and physical limitations could limit the outcome.
  • Realistic. Do you think you could spend an extra minute a day to do it properly?
  • Time frame. When can you achieve it by? Having discussed the lag period- I believe one week is a good first marker. The second should be your dental visit. On the subject of time- 2 minutes for brushing and however long it takes to floss and clean in between your teeth (normally an additional minute).
  • Evaluate. Judged by you making sure you do it right. Judged by a partner to see if it really does look like in the video. If it’s a child, judged by mum or dad. Evaluate the technique, the time spent, any visible plaque or signs of gingivitis and bleeding. Get in there and get curious.
  • Re-evaluate. The dentist or hygienist is in the best position to check how you are doing at your check ups and give you a good clean to get you back to square one, ready to try again. Ask them how your doing, where you’re missing and what mark they would give you out of 10.