5 Steps to alter your patients' patterned oral health regimens

October 16, 2013
Issue 5

As part of the Dental Products Report monthly reading list series, Linda Steeves, RDH, reviewed author Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business." In this review, Steeves outlined ways incorporating Duhigg's habit-changing steps in the dental office can motivate patients to accept positive change. 

As part of the Dental Products Report monthly reading list series, Linda Steeves, RDH, reviewed author Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business." In this review, Steeves outlined ways incorporating Duhigg's habit-changing steps in the dental office can motivate patients to accept positive change. 

In the review, Steeves wrote, "The Power of Habit" can easily be put into a dental office format. Imagine another day in the dental office with the usual daunting task of utilizing exceptional communication skills and trying to successfully alter the patterned behaviors of our patients. These patterns have hindered them from completing treatment, following home care regimens and overall improving their oral and systemic health. If we could tap into the ability of instituting habit change, your day would appear different.

Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits, and author of the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done, offers up five steps to form flossing habits among your patients in "The Tiny Guide to Creating the Flossing Habit."

Forming the Habitof Flossing

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.