Tooth Brushing and Flossing as a Tiny Mindfulness Retreat (with Hot Springs)

Today was my second big trip to the dentist in 8 days (for a very deep cleaning, part 1 and part 2). (I’ve been thinking about teeth—and the dentist—a lot this year.)

Insight into the true nature of tooth-brushing

Last week, the dental hygienist offered me a profound insight into the true nature of toothbrushing: It’s not about pressure or time; it’s about presence and gentle thoroughness.

Tooth brushing isn’t about pressure or time;
it’s about presence and gentle thoroughness.

So many of us (including me) have gum damage from scrubbing our teeth too hard. I used to think that was the best way to do it . . . but it’s not. When I first learned this, I switched to a soft-bristle brush, and then later to an electric toothbrush. But I admit I’ve always looked at toothbrushing as a quick task to get done, not as something sensual or pleasurable. But it can be. 🙂

Gently notice while brushing that you touch every tooth

Gently notice while brushing that you touch every surface of every tooth. That’s how the hygienist explained it. it sounded so simple. I came home and gave it a try. Even though I’ve practiced mindfulness in various forms for years (have even taught mindfulness! heck, have even given “notice sensations while brushing your teeth” as a homework suggestion to 4th graders!), I had never actually tried it with my own toothbrush and my own teeth! Until last week.

Like receiving a little massage

Mindfully brushing your teeth and gums is . . . well . . . like receiving a little massage. It feels good. (How had I never noticed this?) All week, when I’ve brushed, I’ve asked myself how it feels, moment by moment. This is such a subtle change, but it makes all the difference! Instead of something to “get done,” so you can get on to more enjoyable things, toothbrushing can be the enjoyable experience itself, like a tiny mindfulness retreat.

Adding hot springs to my nightly dental mindfulness-retreat spa?

Today, I brought a present home from the dentist, a Hydro Floss! This is a tool for a deeper level of teeth/gum care, using a stream of water to clean your teeth. I’ve decided to think of it like adding a hot springs with a river running through it (or a hot tub with jet spray!) to my nightly dental mindfulness-retreat. Full disclosure: I haven’t tried the Hydro Floss yet . . . am writing this post first . . . but it makes me happy to imagine that it might feel like this! 🙂 I’ll find out soon . . . 

An invitation for you

The next time you brush your teeth,  notice if you are touching the surface of every tooth. Are there any areas you are missing? How do your gums feel when the toothbrush comes along? Are there any pleasant sensations?

If you find toothbrushing enjoyable, you’ll probably do a better job of taking care of you teeth. And then maybe you won’t find yourself needing a 2-part deep cleaning like I had! 🙂

I’m wishing you happy, healthy teeth and gums!



PHOTO CREDIT: Esther Ni Dhonnacha (Unsplash)