In this week’s blog post, there was a comment at the end about how brushing teeth is one of the most popular Beeminder goals.
 Yes, you probably do brush your teeth more than once a day. We’ll get to that!
Tangent: The amount of people who beemind teeth brushing has always surprised me. Beeminder may be the most effective impetus for oral health on the whole internet. Was it difficult to remember without Beeminder poking you? How often do you brush your teeth with Beeminder vs. without? Has your dentist noticed the improved beehavior? Do you even go to the dentist regularly? If you beemind this, please email me at support and let me know why you do so. I won’t judge you! I just want to understand.
Brushing my teeth (or rather, wanting to do so more regularly) was actually the goal that inspired me to try Beeminder. There are a couple reasons why I think it’s actually a perfect use case (which are probably similar to those for flossing):
- it should be done regularly,
- it’s relatively easy to just do it since it just takes a minute,
- if it’s not yet a habit it’s easy to let it slide.
I wanted to go further on (3) because it’s probably a point that’s hard to understand if you have always been an adult who has a teeth brushing habit. Having talked with friends about this, it’s hard for them to conceive how gross it would be to go to bed or wake up without brushing their teeth. They crave that minty feeling the way many of us crave morning coffee.
I was always very ashamed that I didn’t have a regular teeth brushing habit, but it was something that I had tried and failed to do many times. I knew that brushing my teeth was important long term for my oral health, since I was in my 20s and already had some gingivitis. I looked forward to a visit to the dentist without them having to use the “power cleaner.” But in the moment, when I was reading, cozy in bed, it was easy to turn out the lights and fall asleep and say that I’d do it in the morning. I probably brushed my teeth between 2 - 5 nights per week.
Brushing my teeth was a notable example of my inability to form important habits. Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that my childhood was notably lacking in habits or predictability. I didn’t have a tooth brushing or house cleaning routine as an adult, but I also never had a routine of brushing my teeth, cleaning up, washing my face, or really anything else, as a kid. This produced an adult who’s pretty easy-going and resilient but not someone who is shocked by a night without brushing my teeth or a day without sunscreen.
Creating an external incentive (and pairing it with cool, inspiring graphs) has empowered me to start forming these habits in my life. I’m now someone who brushes my teeth regularly (and craves that minty freshness! who woulda thought!), exercises semi-regularly, and cleans my room weekly. I can’t wait to see my dentist.