Brush your teeth or the pervasive state of busyness

Two minutes of tooth-brushing: easy or hard?

Brushing your teeth is so often used as an example of a habit that most of us don’t question, that it’s a wonder the world has a need for dental hygienists. Recently my wife and I got round to charging up and using the electric toothbrushes that had been hanging around for nearly a year. (A – probably ex-military – dental hygienist told us to.) These toothbrushes do a funny vibrate noise when 30 seconds is up. You’re supposed to brush your teeth in segments – 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right). That is, two minutes of tooth-brushing. Easy, right?

The luxury of spending two minutes on tooth-brushing

Now this might be because of my dyspraxia and if so I apologise if I’ve had halitosis at work and everyone was too polite to mention it, but I’m going to say this anyway because it helps me to make a point – and it’s all about the story! Now it’s being timed, two minutes of tooth-brushing feels like a luxury. I can hardly find the time to fit in two minutes of tooth-brushing. (Six year-old, getting ready to work, blog posts to write, shopping to buy, cats to feed.) I think you will agree that this is VERY BAD. For you it might be something else you skip because of busyness: breakfast, walking to work, bedtime story, stroking the cat – how could you possibly fit them in, right?

Remember those blue pills that showed up the plaque on your teeth?

How on earth am I going to find half an hour to do yoga or ten minutes to meditate or an hour’s perspective time, if two minutes of tooth-brushing feels too long? When my dad died, he had three teeth left and he refused to wear dentures. Admirably, this is because he was one day going to be rich enough to have dental implants. He died trying, I guess. In other words, if I don’t look after my teeth, I’m heading for decay. That’s the message I’ve been getting since the Nit Nurse brought round those blue pills that showed up the plaque on your teeth in the 1970s.

Busyness is a state of mind

So why is two minutes hard? It’s busyness again. Busyness it turns out, hasn’t got anything to do with what we’ve actually got going on in our lives. The busyness continued, along with my attitude to tooth-brushing (get it over with, get son to school, get on with my day), even after I had given up my full-time job. Why? Well, I have to conclude that busyness is a state of mind, and that tooth-brushing is NOT the best example of habit formation. Showing up for work or showing up for the things you love to do (whatever form that takes) is probably a better example, but let’s not forget to clean our teeth properly before we get there.


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