My Hygiene Routine
September 26, 2013
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My Hygiene Routine... 

            It has been said that it takes twenty-one days of doing something to form a habit.  A quick bit of Google research expands this to twenty-eight or even thirty days.  Unfortunately, psychological research has yet to find or prove a magic number of times something must be done to form a habit.  My guess is that we are all different in our abilities to make or break both good and bad habits.  Dogged determination probably helps, regardless of what the research might say.

             Through the years, we have noticed a dental habit that patients either do or they don’t.  That habit is flossing.  For some reason, the use of dental floss seems to be an all-or-nothing habit.  There are very few once-a-week flossers.  Most don’t.  Those that do, seem to do it consistently.

             This is not a judgement.  I must admit, that up until a few years ago, I was not a flosser myself.  The truth is that studies show that dentists and their teams, including dental hygienists, floss at about the same rate as the general public.  We know we should, but many just don’t.

             Just like you.  And the old me.

             My flossing adventure began in dental school when I actually learned how to floss.  I was amazed that a simple trick could help me to get the floss to where it needed to go.  Alas, I was young and invincible and nightly flossing soon died away.  At best, I flossed once-a-quarter.

             Then, a few years ago, reality set in.  I have a family history of gum disease and some early signs were showing.  Dentists should have beautiful, white, straight, healthy teeth surrounded by pink, healthy gums. Since I am a firm believer in practicing what you preach, I decided to shape up.  I decided on a routine and it has led to a habit.

             Each morning, after a cup of coffee and our team meeting, I start my routine.  First, I rinse with some type of mouthwash for at least thirty seconds.  Then, I floss:  top right, bottom right, top left, bottom left.  (Most people floss all the top, then around to all the bottom.  I’m a little weird in my habits.)  If I’m feeling extra healthy, I’ll follow my flossing with one of the many flossing gizmos I’ve acquired through the years.  Next, I’ll brush; teeth, gums, and tongue.  Finally, I’ll end with a fluoride containing breath rinse for another thirty to sixty seconds.  This gets repeated after lunch and before bed.  On paper, it seems like a process, but the whole routine takes less than five minutes.

             This certainly isn’t the only way or even the best, but it’s become a habit for me.  Maybe I did it twenty-one times in a row.  Or maybe thirty.  Who knows?

             Until next week, keep flossing.

 -Please send comments to Drs. Parrish at