We need to remember to brush.
For the most part, I'm a live and let live kind of person. You do your thing, I do mine. I went through a phase of trying to control the behavior of other people and I called that "being an activist". Now, I feel pretty confident in my values and beliefs and I share them during conversation, when asked or in my writing or the other work I do as a coach and speaker.
I'm over trying to change people. It only made them mad. In general, I don't think making people feel mad, bad or guilty inspires them to change.
Now, I change myself, lead by example, and smile from ear to ear when it actually helps facilitate social change.
So, what's this got to do with hygiene?
Well, I felt compelled to weigh in on this topic after an experience on the bus lately. And instead of making anyone feel mad, bad or guilty with this post, I hope to inspire change or, at the very least, some mindfulness around some important hygiene habits with a humorous entreaty.
Shall we start with the bus experience that inspired this post? One day I hopped onto the beloved MBTA transit system and grabbed myself a seat. I settled into the smooth hard plastic and opened my phone to read another few pages of whatever ebook I'm reading. It might have been Roots by Alex Haley or Everything I Know by Paul Jarvis.
As I began reading, I smelled the familiar smell. I glanced to my left quickly and saw the open mouth of the guy next to me. It was unmistakable. It was familiar. It was stale. It was the smell of unbrushed teeth/oral cavity. And it was powerful, indeed.
I get it. Mornings can be difficult and it's easy to forget to brush amongst the many things one must accomplish before jetting out the door. There are clothes to iron or pull from the semi-dirty pile. There is breakfast to prepare (or at least dream about). There are pets to feed, or glance at lovingly and apologetically.
But there are a few things we really don't want to pass on. Brushing our teeth is probably in the top three, in my opinion.
Deodorant? Negotiable, depending on the season. Layers of clothes make for easy masking during the winter. Summertime, not so much. Be aware when you're lifting those arms, ok?
Ensemble? Also negotiable. But remember that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What impression do you want to make/leave? And are you making it dressed as you are? You get to decide.
Anything else can be categorized under Less Important.
But our breath, dear friends. Our breath can be a tool of mass destruction, depending on whether or not we choose to brush before we leave the house. And on this day, this day that shall live in infamy, my bus neighbor chose mightily.
It was so bad, so strong and so forceful (he might have run a few blocks to catch the bus) that I had to turn myself 45 degrees to the right to avoid the odor. I thought to myself how simple it would have been to grab a quick swig of mouthwash, a piece of gum, an Altoid. But alas, no. And I also reflected on how many times I'd engaged in conversation with someone had chosen similarly and how it impacted my ability to focus on whatever that person said.
And then, and then, I thought about the times I'd left the house without brushing. Or had a lunch or dinner meal with copious amounts of garlic, with no spare toothbrush on my person. How many times had I unknowingly incurred a similar wrath much like this lad beside me??!
As the bus groaned to a stop to release its contents into the veins of the city, I stepped onto the curb and thought how I might make amends. And you, dear reader, are the recipient of said effort.
In addition to being a tremendous favor for all with whom you interact, consider the long-term positive effects of brushing and the undervalued-and-less-commonly-practiced-yet-more-important task of flossing! Can you believe I went a full two years with no cavities from engaging in these two important habits more often? I also think it had something to do with my shift in nutrition, which similarly impacted my body odor.
It's true. I had about one cavity a year for at least the past 10 years. Because it was getting so costly, I stopped going a few years ago. The dentist didn't like that when I went back. And then I took more time away, because I had no dental insurance. And then I went to get my teeth cleaned and my gums checked because I was afraid I had receding gum lines. I was shocked beyond belief when they told me I had no cavitites. I thought it was a fluke so I went back in another six months and guess what? No cavities AGAIN.
It is very true that I have been eating less sugar in general than in years past.
It is very true I eat way less dried fruit and remember to brush at least twice a day.
It is true I floss at least once a day. Ok, fine. It's at least three times a week.
It is very true I am eating WAY MORE greens and nutrient-packed foods than ever in my life.
Food for thought, pals.
I leave with you with this small public service announcement/request that I hope you will keep with you: do the right thing. Brush your teeth before leaving the house.
photo courtesy of the author