When is the Best Time to Start?

The best time to start a new habit is now, not tomorrow, not next week… now!

There are two things I hear every single day as a dentist:

1. “I hate the dentist- no offence!”
2. “I wish I had looked after my teeth better when I was younger.”

The connection may not seem obvious to begin with, but would you not agree that going to the dentist would be way better if every time the dentist said, “Wow, you’re doing a great job- I’ll just give you a quick clean up and you will be on your way!” RESULT!

Instead, unfortunately more often the story is, “ Ok -so you have a new cavity that needs filling and this tooth has been filled so many times it’s going to need a crown,” etc. etc. Then you have to go through the inconvenient, less than pleasant experience of someone in your mouth and the pain of parting with your hard earned money to fix it up- and you don’t like the dentist… !

My point here is most of this is avoidable, if you start properly caring for your mouth early on and if you haven’t until now- start today, then the chances of things going wrong from now on will be far less.

The more problems you have in your mouth- fillings, crowns, dentures, implants etc., the more that can potentially go wrong. In fact there are Health Insurance companies that charge premiums on the back of what work you currently have in your mouth, as this is the best predictor of what work you will need doing in the future because it speaks leaps and bounds about how you care for your mouth

It is well known that any action, thought or belief that is re-enforced sufficiently will end up becoming a habit. The way this happens is, every time you do something, anything- a thought or action, a connection is made in your brain.

The more you do it, the more connections the brain makes and the easier it becomes to do it. The less you do something, the weaker these connections become and the less likely you are to do that behaviour- interesting isn’t it. So in my mind it’s much better to create good habits, rather than foster bad ones as whichever you choose, you are likely to repeat.

I read this great analogy in ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’… imagine a mountain with fresh untouched snow on it; if you ski down it can be quite tricky to know where to go and the route you take may be a little uncertain. If you do it again, it will be easier to follow the tracks you left last time rather than go a different route- if you do it thousands of times you will carve out a piste making it even quicker and easier to follow that same path.

This is the basis of forming a habit and also an addiction. Now attempting to go a different route (e.g. off piste) becomes that much more difficult. The only difference with the addiction is the reward or pleasurable feelings your body associates for going down that route or doing that activity, makes it even harder to stop or change. Plus addictions tend to be thought of as bad things or at least activities performed in excess such as smoking, eating unhealthy foods or drinking alcohol. Can’t say I remember hearing anyone say, “Man- I’m addicted to drinking pure filtered water.”

So what is your reason for improving your oral hygiene? Is it spending more on nice things instead, avoiding the dentist’s hairy nostrils or having injections, or something more serious like slowing your gum disease… Get specific and write it down somewhere- it adds power to the goal becoming true.

Now that’s out of the way and whilst your on a role….what other changes would really make a difference to your life right now? Good luck!