Over the past few years an enormous amount of energy has been used discussing, debating, arguing and disjoining our dental community over the issue of “access of care.” We don’t have an “access of care” problem we have an “educate to care” or a “care to access” problem. For example, we were performing an initial exam on a 17 year old girl from an alleged “access to care” population. Her first statement upon sitting in the dental chair was “I have to rinse out with Mountain Dew because water makes me gag!” This unbelievable ignorance of oral care and health is rampant in an alarmingly large percentage of our population. In our practice we have to do more than drill and fill we have to educate and until we educate we will never eradicate oral disease. Habits are a key to our success. The only difference between those who have failed and those succeeded lies in the difference of their habits.
We are all creatures of habit and for all the years that I have been hearing that old adage I have never heard anyone dispute it. It is believed that up to 95 % of our behaviour is formed through habits which can have a powerful hold on us. Habits start innocently and unintentionally, but through repetition, what seemed like a small thread eventually becomes a rope. We first make our habits and our habits make us.
Our personalities and behaviours are created from these acquired attitudes, habits and appearances. All of our habits we have acquired, because we were not born with any of them. We learn them just as we learn our attitudes. They develop over time and are reinforced through repetition. We are enslaved to these habits, habits that sometimes work for or against us.
Habits, like attitudes, can be changed and neither the age of the person, nor the length of the habit, can be used as an argument for holding on to it. The only thing that matters is desire. Long-standing habits or new habits cannot be started or stopped easily. Trying to break an old habit or trying to break a new habit by sheer will-power rarely works. What has proven to be far more effective is replacing the habit by substituting it with a behaviour that is more positive. We need to create positive, non-threatening messages that inspire patients to want excellent oral health for themselves and their children. Good habits are not generated overnight and we must keep our messages in front of the public constantly. We are what we repeatedly do and excellence is not an act, but a habit.