Brushing your teeth on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your smile. Healthy teeth make a beautiful smile. The team at the Mt. Vernon Center for Dentistry in Alexandria reminds you that brushing can also help with gum health and even keep your breath smelling sweet.
For some of us, brushing can be a bothersome chore that gets in the way of a good time. We hope you don’t think of brushing in such dire terms!
The best way to build brushing into your routine is to make it a habit. A habit is a behavior that gradually becomes automatic through repetition. Some habits can be bad, of course. Brushing can be a good habit.
If you can make brushing your teeth a habit, you’ll be one step closer to a life of successful checkups.
Here are some tips for creating a good habit that you can teach to your kids. These tips will also work on teens. And they work on adults, too:
Keep It Simple
One of the best ways to create a new habit is to keep the requirements simple. Brushing teeth is already a simple task, but we can focus on the simplicity to help it stick as a habit.
Don’t complicate the instructions for your kids. Keep it as simple as possible at the start. A small amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush, brush for about two minutes, rinse with clear water. Simple.
One of the corner stones of a habit is routine. Routine is rooted in consistent timing. Choose at least two, or three regular times to brush your teeth. Set a timer if you have to, but it’s best to create a habit around other regular activities. “First thing in the morning” or “after breakfast” are good times. After dinner or just before getting into bed are also good times.
Regardless of when you choose, make sure it is a daily activity, and that it is tied to another routine or habit as a reminder. In this way you are actually appending an existing habit or routine, and that makes it easier.
Stick To It
Research indicates it takes about two weeks to create a habit. You have to do a task for at least two weeks in a row before your brain will turn it over to auto-pilot and make it into a habit. Your brain tries to do this with routine things so you don’t have to keep the task in your short-term memory.
If you can stick with a task for two weeks, you’ll be well on your way to creating a good habit. If you can hold on for 30 days, you’ll imprint your new habit as a reflexive routine. You may never have to think about it again!
Finally, any good habit needs constant improving. You can improve your habit of brushing your teeth by working on proper form, or by adding a little bit of time. Work toward the two minute mark; any longer and it may start to cause damage. You can also make sure you are using a soft or medium brush, and that you are using floride toothpaste to keep your teeth healthy.
There’s no time like the present to start creating healthy habits for your teeth. If you are having trouble with brushing, make a commitment to work on it starting now. If you are caring for a child, or working with a teenager, help reinforce good habits with reminders, positive support, and a leading example.