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Raising the Bar in Rehab

Do You Floss Twice Per Day?

Published June 3, 2010 9:25 AM by Lisa West

I just got back from the dentist. I'm having some work done to straighten my bottom teeth into better alignment. Yes, yes, I should have worn the retainer I was given by my orthodontist...but the importance of wearing your retainer somehow loses itself in the mind of a 12-year old. Now I've realized that I need to take better care of my teeth, or they are going to start moving around again, and I desperately want to avoid being in my 30s with braces.

I digress. At my appointment today, my dentist kindly suggested I pay more attention to flossing as my anterior gum line is starting to develop some reddened areas, and even some plaque formation between some of my teeth! Gross.

So, I admit it - I don't floss often. My morning bathroom ritual is overwhelming even without the flossing. Showering, shaving, conditioning, drying, hair maintenance, make-up, deodorant, contacts, etc. You get the idea. I just can't force myself to add another single thing to my daily list. Flossing gets sacrificed. I know the benefits of flossing, I know I should do it. I know there are probably millions of pro-floss people who could list the number of ways flossing has improved their lives. I just cannot do it. I don't like the way flossing feels. I feel like my slimy hands are flipping all over the place. It seems like such a silly waste of time to slide that thin piece of waxed string in between every single tooth. My brain starts talking, "Why are we doing this? Can we just brush and be done?" I rush on to my next morning task and before I know it a few weeks have gone by since the last time I flossed.

How does this compare to my job? Let me tell you. I tell most of my patients to exercise, stretch and walk at least three times per day. I explain to them the home exercise program and why it is so important. I list the risks of inactivity and the benefits of progressing mobility. I talk until I am blue in the face.

Not many of my patients actually follow through. I'm sure they have good intentions. I know they want to improve their function, get stronger and return to their normal lives. But, like my own flossing habits (or lack thereof), I'm sure other priorities get in the way, which makes exercising more difficult. It's hard to juggle it all.

I like when I have realizations like this one, because it wakes me up to see the bigger picture. Maybe we can all take a minute to remember that our "super-important PT plans" have to be realistic for our patients to successfully implement them.

1 comments

Good application, Lisa.

My mom was a hygienist, so flossing was never an option.  It never occurred to me how vital flossing was to my dental health until last year.  I got a call from a friend who was having to have her cleaning done over two visits and with numbing shots!  OUCH!

There was nothing unusual about her cleaning.  Just a routine cleaning - the one I do every six months in one 20-minute visit.  And I pay $0 out of pocket.  My friend will have to sit for a few hours over two visits and pay hundreds of dollars.  All because she didn't floss, and she missed two regular visits...life got busy and the routine cleanings didn't fit into her schedule.

That's enough to keep me on track!!  

It's the same with rehab patients.  In addition to making exercise plans realistic, we have to be able to make them relevant.  Whether it is flossing or rehab home programs, there is that one motivator that will cause us to move compliance to the top of our "to-do" list.  As therapists, it's our job to help our patients find their motivator.

Janey Goude June 9, 2010 11:14 PM

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