Resolve to Have Better Oral Health in 2018? Here’s How to Make It Stick


Making resolutions is easy. Keeping them is hard. In fact, 80% of resolutions have failed by February. Overall, only 8% of people manage to keep their resolutions through to the end of the year.

So, how do you keep your resolutions this year? Here are some science-based recommendations if you’ve resolved to improve your oral health this year.

Hit the Ground Running

Not literally, of course. (Though if you’ve resolved to exercise more this year, check out our post on making sure it doesn’t impact your oral health.) However, science does show that people who start strong on their resolutions in January are more likely to achieve their goals.

This comes from a study where people who were paid to hit the gym eight times in the first month of a tracking period, just once in the first month, or just get tracked. The ones who were paid to go to the gym eight times in a month, went nine more times over the next seven weeks, compared to only half as many visits for those who were paid to go once or just be tracked.

The lesson: start your habit with multiple instances, and you’re more likely to establish it.

So, start by brushing and flossing your teeth more often. If your goal is twice a day, start by brushing three times a day. Even if you don’t maintain that level, you’re more likely to brush twice daily than if you start there.

Allow Yourself a Mulligan

Studies also show that giving yourself some leeway to not hit your goal all the time makes it easier to achieve your goal overall.

This comes from a study of people who were paid to perform nuisance tasks online for $1 a day, plus bonuses. A $5 bonus was given differently for three groups. One group had to go online every day to receive their bonus. Another group had to go online just five days a week to get their bonus. The third group was told they had to go online every day to get their bonus, but if necessary up to two days would be excused. Note that the ostensible goal is the same for the last two groups (at least five days a week), but 53% of those given the excused days succeeded, compared to just 23% of those whose goal was just five days.

The lesson? Maybe you’ll succeed at your goals better if you give yourself license to slack off periodically.

Enlist a Partner

Being held accountable is one of the best things you can do to ensure you keep your resolutions. If you’re just responsible to yourself, you’re less likely to succeed than if failure means failing yourself and someone else.

For many resolutions, it makes sense to recruit family and friends. You can do that for oral health resolutions, too, but there’s actually a great partner whose job it is to watch out for your oral health: your dentist. Your dentist can be there to support your efforts, encourage your goals, provide helpful feedback, and help you measure your achievements, which is really important to achieving your goals (see below).

So one of the first things you should do is make an appointment with your dentist for a checkup and teeth cleaning. Then, before leaving that appointment, you should make your next appointment. That will give you a specific time frame to achieve your goal, which is also important to achieving your goals (again, see below).

Making SMART Goals

One common recommendation for achieving any goal (not just resolutions) is making them SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Just making a resolution to improve your oral health, for example, is going to be hard to achieve. Instead, it’s better to turn the goal into more specific terms.

For example, you might resolve to have fewer cavities this year than last year. Or to have less gum inflammation. Both of these are attainable, specific, relevant, and measurable. They’re also going to be time-bound because they will be bounded by your twice-a-year dental visits. That gives you two checkpoints to make sure you’re sticking to your resolution and achieving your goal.

Start Today

Every day you let pass is a day closer to failing your resolution. If you really want to succeed this year, joining that elite 8 percent who actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions, there’s no time like now to get started.

To schedule an appointment with a Houston dentist, please call (281) 637-5559 today for an appointment with Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry in The Woodlands.

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