Establishing good habits like flossing is extremely important for oral health. However, flossing doesn’t really have a reputation as being something exciting and fun (at least not yet), and only 1 out of every 5 people seem to floss regularly according to the ADHA.
In a recent survey done by Plackers, the two biggest reasons cited by adults as to why they didn’t floss were:
- Because they simply “forgot” to floss (40% of respondents)
- They didn’t have floss handy when they needed it (30% of respondents)
If you are going to start flossing regularly, here is what I would focus on to get you on the right track to making it a habit:
- Set up a daily reminder. Everyone has a smartphone these days so it is really easy to set up an alert to remind yourself to floss.
- Decide on a time of day that is convenient. At a bare minimum you should get the areas between teeth clean once a day. Although cleaning your teeth in the morning probably provides the greatest benefit, flossing at any time is infinitely better than not flossing. Pick a time when you think you are consistently the most likely to floss and will have access to floss.
- Try pairing brushing with another activity or habit that you do consistently. For example, floss in the shower with you (hopefully you shower everyday). Put the floss where you’ll notice it.
- Pick the right tool for the job. The goal of flossing is simply to remove plaque from the surfaces between your teeth to improve tooth and gum health. Traditional floss is not the only tool that does this. In fact, traditional floss probably requires the most effort, which is typically a barrier to habit formation. The survey on flossing also found the biggest problems with floss were the floss shredding or breaking, which can be frustrating and make you less likely to floss. Instead try out a floss alternative like a Waterpik, floss picks, interproximal brushes, the list goes on.
- If you don’t already know, establish an understanding of why it is important to floss. Spend sometime in searching with Google images to scare/motiviate you into doing it (there are lots of gross pictures of bad gums so you won’t be disappointed). You can even place some of these pictures in the bathroom or wherever you might want to motivate yourself to floss. This will help motivate you at the right times.
- Track your progress. We have gone over how you can track your gum health week to week, and seeing your gum health improve will give you a motivational boost because you’ll know your effort is paying off. Another tool that I have found particularly useful in establishing good habits is the Lift app, which you can download on your phone. It helps to reinforce good habits by allowing you to track your flossing frequency and review your progress. They even have a Million Teeth Challenge for people who want to floss, which I think is pretty cool.