How I Finally Made Flossing a Habit

How I Finally Made Flossing a Habit

Confession: For most of my life, I haven’t been a constant flosser. 

Brushing my tooth two occasions a day? No downside.

But flossing? That behavior by no means caught for some purpose. 

This private failure comes into clear focus twice a yr, once I go to the dentist for my common cleansing. The dental hygienist begins utilizing a periodontal probe to plumb the well being of my gum tissue. As she pokes the instrument alongside my gum line, she inevitably reaches a degree the place the probe sinks in additional than it ought to, indicating poor tissue well being. 

“Oh, we acquired a 4mm pocket right here,” she says. 

She makes this commentary as neutrally as attainable. But, in my neurotic, Larry David-esque thoughts, she sounds completely disgusted by my poor periodontal well being and thinks I ought to be positively ashamed of that 4mm pocket. 

In reality, I really name these gum pockets, “pockets of disgrace.” 

When I come house from the dentist, Kate invariably asks me, “Got any pockets of disgrace?” regardless that she is aware of the reply will probably be sure, as a result of she is aware of I don’t floss commonly. Salt within the wound. 

After the probing and the invention of extra pockets of disgrace, the hygienist asks, “How’s your flossing going?”

“Oh, I might do higher,” I say with a sheepish grin. 

“Well, simply attempt to do it at the least as soon as a day. It will actually assist. We need your gums and tooth to be as wholesome as attainable.” Again, the hygienist is saying this cheerfully and helpfully, however since I’m feeling ashamed of my pockets of disgrace, my mind interprets the suggestion as a reprimand.

As I drive house noshing on the cookie the dentist offers sufferers after a go to, I resolve, as soon as once more, to turn into a devoted flosser.

“As Otis Spunkmeyer as my witness, I’ll by no means have pockets of disgrace once more!”

I do act to observe by way of on this conviction. Every night time after my shameful go to to the dentist, I floss. 

But with out fail, two weeks later, I’ve fallen off the wagon. 

Six months later, I get a reminder that my subsequent dental appointment is in every week. I furiously attempt to cram six months of flossing into one week. 

Must. Not. Have. Pockets. Of. Shame! 

But I do. 

And the cycle repeats itself once more like some Buddhist morality story. 

I figured I’d be caught on this infinite cycle of flossing failure and periodontal disgrace ceaselessly extra.

Instead, I lastly discovered a method to escape the flossing ouroboros and attain periodontal nirvana. 

For the previous three months, I’ve not missed a single night time of flossing. That’s the longest flossing streak I’ve ever had in all of the years I’ve sported a full set of tooth.

To thank for that, I’ve a behavioral scientist and AC/DC. 

Floss One Tooth + AC/DC = Flossing Habit

A couple of weeks earlier than the start of the brand new yr, I learn behavioral scientist BJ Fogg’s e book Tiny Habits. (In February, I had him on the AoM podcast to speak about it.) In his e book, Fogg lays out research-backed techniques to show any intention into an ingrained behavior.

After boning up on his suggestions, I instantly began implementing them to lastly flip flossing right into a behavior for myself. Since that point, I haven’t missed a single night time of flossing.

Fogg’s Behavioral Design Model is a really clear, multi-faceted strategy to creating good habits or breaking (he prefers the phrase “untangling”) unhealthy ones. Every a part of the mannequin might be tweaked based mostly in your present state of affairs and private objectives.

Two elements of Fogg’s Behavioral Design Model have been extraordinarily highly effective in making flossing a behavior for me:

  1. Make the behavior tiny
  2. Celebrate after efficiently finishing the behavior

Floss One Tooth

Fogg makes the intuitive commentary that the larger and more difficult your purpose, the extra motivation it’s essential to obtain it. 

One of the massive obstacles that retains folks from forming good habits, consequently, is that they swing for the fences, pondering that the excessive degree of motivation they really feel upon initially setting the purpose, will stick with them.

Of course, it doesn’t. And when their motivation invariably flags, folks say, “To hell with it!” and chuck the thought altogether. 

To counter this tendency, Fogg recommends making your behavior as tiny and simple as attainable, which largely takes the motivation issue out of the equation. 

For the flossing behavior, which means making it a purpose to floss only one tooth an evening. 

That’s it. One single tooth.

Now, flossing only one tooth (you’re in fact getting in-between two tooth, technically), isn’t going to enhance your general periodontal well being immediately. But that’s not the purpose. The level is to make the act of flossing a behavior, which can finally result in improved gum well being. Even in the event you’re drained and need to crawl into mattress after brushing your chompers, all you must do to really feel profitable is to floss a single tooth. 

So that’s what I did. Every night time I’d floss one lone tooth after brushing my tooth. I’d change which tooth I flossed every night time, but it surely was all the time only one.

“Okay, advantageous,” you is likely to be pondering, “So you’ve made it a behavior to floss only one tooth. But when do you up your purpose and add extra tooth?”

Fogg has a stunning reply right here: you don’t

You don’t ever increase the bar in your purpose, which stays to floss one tooth each night time. Instead, in the event you really feel like flossing extra tooth, you enable your self to take action. And you naturally will really feel like flossing extra tooth the overwhelming majority of the time. The exhausting half about doing most stuff is getting began; when you’ve gotten going, you usually need to preserve going.

This is the way it performed out in my very own expertise. I discovered myself naturally, painlessly, voluntarily, including in additional tooth as the times went on till finally, I flossed all my tooth in a single session. But I’ve by no means upped my purpose; it’s nonetheless to floss only one tooth. Thus as Fogg predicts, once I floss all my tooth every night time anyway, I really feel like an superior overachiever. I’m going to mattress feeling like a boss.

Very often there’s nonetheless an evening once I’m actually drained and simply need to crawl into mattress with out flossing in any respect. On these nights I’m going again to flossing only one tooth. What I by no means say anymore, nevertheless, is, “To hell with it!” In the world of Tiny Habits, doing one thing is all the time higher than doing nothing. 

So beginning small with one tooth performed a giant position in my flossing behavior, however what actually put the behavior formation course of into overdrive was celebrating every time I efficiently accomplished my purpose. 

And that’s the place AC/DC is available in.

Flossing Your Teeth to a Celebratory Soundtrack

A key element within the Fogg Behavioral Design Model is that feelings create habits. Not repetition. Not willpower. Emotions

If one thing feels good while you do it, you’ll preserve doing it. Plain and easy. 

The trick, although, is that the great feeling should come proper after you do the conduct. Sure, I’ll really feel good when the dental hygienist tells me I’ve no pockets of disgrace on my subsequent dental go to, however that’s too far sooner or later to have a lot of an impact on my conduct now. 

So how do you make your self really feel constructive feelings after flossing a single tooth? 

According to Fogg, you have fun this tiny achievement. Your celebration can take any type. It simply needs to be 1) instant, and a couple of) genuinely make you are feeling good. 

For some folks, a easy smile will work as a celebration. For others, a fist pump within the air does the trick.

I attempted these, however they didn’t actually work for me. They didn’t enable me to expertise what Fogg calls “shine” — the nice and cozy glow of victory.

But then I stumbled onto a celebration that turbocharged the formation of my flossing behavior: I sing/mouth the intro guitar riff of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” each time I floss a tooth. In my thoughts, I’m imagining AC/DC placing on a private live performance to have fun my flossing. 

When I’m on my own, I audibly make the noise. If Kate’s within the toilet, I’m going fully imaginary so she doesn’t have to listen to me beatboxing the riff. I’m a considerate husband. 

Three months in I’m nonetheless having imaginary AC/DC concert events in my head whereas I floss. 

Is it foolish? Well, it really works, so who cares?

*intense guitar riff with mouth noise*


There you have got it. How I lastly made flossing a behavior. Start off flossing only one tooth. Immediately have fun with AC/DC. 

This methodology could possibly be tweaked and used for an entire host of habits. Drinking water. Eating veggies. Doing push-ups. Journaling. Meditation. 

Pick a conduct. 

Start tiny.

Immediately have fun.

I extremely suggest testing the interview I did with BJ. We go into his fashions and methodologies with extra element. It actually is highly effective, life-changing stuff. 

I’m trying ahead to my subsequent go to with the dental hygienist. When she tells me I’ve no pockets of disgrace, I’ll ask her to please take away the periodontal probe from my mouth, to higher get away into a bit of “Back in Black.”

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