every night

I had the day off work today (Friday), so I took the opportunity to go to the dentist. I could tell that that was not the answer my colleagues were expecting when they asked me yesterday (or earlier in the week) what I would be doing with my day off. But I was certainly well overdue for another check-up, and I don’t mind dentist visits much. (It probably helps that my dentist is also my sister.)

It was all pretty routine, I suppose – just a check and clean, and she referred me for an x-ray to check the existence (or otherwise) of my wisdom teeth. Supposedly I’d chipped a tooth, but she buffed and polished that. Also seems like I might be grinding my teeth a bit (probably in my sleep – sometimes I have pretty stressful dreams, so I’m not that surprised) but otherwise things seemed ok.

Lying in the dentist’s chair this morning, staring up at the light thing they use, and at the picture of a forest on the ceiling, I thought about how good it feels to be doing something for my health. For that reason, I quite like the idea of regular check-ups, even if they don’t find anything “wrong”. Surely the reassurance and peace of mind is just as valuable as getting an early diagnosis.

It was kind of in this mindset that I was able to create the habit of flossing every day. I will admit that, up until some time earlier this year, I actually did not floss my teeth every day (please don’t tell my sister). I mean, I did floss before then but it was inconsistent – maybe every two days or I’d skip a day here and there.

When I was first introduced to the concept of flossing, I thought it was tedious, time-consuming and mostly not worth the effort. As time went on, and I became more aware of the importance of good oral hygiene, I put a bit more effort into it, and I suppose I got better at it (?) Practice makes perfect, after all.

Eventually, I made a pact with myself. I wasn’t going to self-impose a rule about flossing every night, but I would have to, without fail, floss if I had eaten out and/or eaten lots of sugary treats that day. This, I believed, would have the added benefit of acting as a deterrent against eating out too much and against eating too much sugar. For the most part, I think it worked quite well, except that I didn’t really change my eating out or sugar habits. Instead, I flossed more. (Honestly, though, I don’t go out that much – too hermit-y for that – and I’d like to think I’ve got some measure of self-control when it comes to sugar.)

I also made a pact that if I was going to sleep in the next morning, I should floss the night before so that my teeth are nice and clean for the 9-12 hours of dormancy between going to bed and having breakfast. (Actually, 12 is probably a bit much; I don’t think I ever sleep more than 10 hours at a stretch. Even 9 sounds like a lot. Gosh, I usually only get 6.5-7 hours during the week, so a nice round 8 would generally suffice.)

The over-arching guiding principle in my strategy for making flossing a regular habit was the idea of sustainability. I’ve never been “on a diet” myself, but I know there’s no point “going on a diet” if it’s not a sustainable long-term change. And it’s the same with exercise: if you set out to do exercises you don’t enjoy, you’ll probably give up after a couple of weeks. Of course, this is nothing new – it gets preached every year in the lead up to New Year.

Unfortunately for flossing, there isn’t really an alternative. You have to brush, and you have to floss. But I made time for flossing, integrating it into my routine, and then somewhere along the line, my mentality toward flossing changed. Now it feels weird to go to bed without flossing. Even if it’s late and I’m dead tired, I will floss. It really doesn’t take long (as I said, practice makes perfect).

I realise that this was a rather unusual thing to write a post about, but I figured that if I can write one about the joys of running, or about the joys of eating well (not sure if I’ve ever actually done that – written a post about eating well, that is, not the eating well part itself – but hypothetically I could), then surely I can write this post, which is essentially about the rewarding feeling you get from looking after yourself.