Since I write for a living, people often assume that I don’t get writer’s block. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do get it from time to time. It’s just that I know how to overcome it. My tool for the job? Dental floss.
If you’re expecting me to share some type of research connecting our ability to think with oral health, that definitely wasn’t my original intention. But now my curious mind wants to know if there is a link between the two. After a quick search, it appears that there may be.
Can Dental Health Improve Your Ability to Think?
Research published in the journal Gerodontology in November of 2020 reports that masticatory function—the way we use our jaw, lips, teeth, and facial muscles to chew, swallow, and speak—is related to cognitive function, which includes our ability to think, learn, reason, problem-solve, and more.
Apparently, when we use our mastication muscles properly, it releases chemicals that activate certain areas of the brain. This results in a higher level of activity in some of the neurons and increases blood flow while, at the same time, helping to stop plaque from forming. All of this together protects our cognitive function as we go through the aging process.
Taking this one step further, other research indicates that tooth loss increases a person’s risk of developing dementia. They’re not completely sure why, but some theories include:
- If you’ve lost some of your teeth, your diet may be lower in nutrition, which can result in poorer central nervous system function.
- Tooth loss means that there is less contact between your upper and lower teeth when you chew, reducing sensory feedback to the central nervous system, which leads to impaired cognitive function.
- Chronic inflammation of the gums (called periodontitis) also affects the central nervous system, ultimately impacting cognition.
While researchers in this study suggest that the connection may be much simpler, namely that someone with greater cognitive health early in life is more likely to look after their oral health and have better brain function in old age, I feel like my ability to overcome writer’s block by flossing my teeth is due to something different. It offers a distraction.
Benefits of Distraction for Overcoming Writer’s Block
Have you ever noticed that the more you try to push past writer’s block, the worse that block gets? It’s like your brain knows what you’re trying to do and isn’t in the mood to comply, so it strengthens its wall, leaving you unable to come up with anything to write on the page.
Yet, when taking a shower, doing dishes, or engaged in some mindless, meaningless task, you can come up with some amazing ideas. It’s as if your brain relaxes enough to drop the block and let thoughts come through. Before you know it, you have this idea that you’re sure will change the world, all because you quit thinking. Enter the dental floss.
When I feel as if I’ve been sitting in front of a blank computer screen for far too long, I open my desk drawer, grab my floss, pull off a piece, and start slowly and methodically clearing the spaces between my teeth. By the time I’m done, my writer’s block is generally gone.
In some cases, it’s gone before I’ve made it through my mouth and I get so excited that I’ve been known to type with the floss hanging from my mouth. I am so intent on getting my words on paper that I just can’t wait any longer. (In full disclosure, there’s a piece of floss hanging from my mouth right now. I know, it’s not the best mental image, but it is an honest one.)
So, if you ever experience writer’s block, try flossing your teeth instead. It may help clear your brain and open it up to some amazing ideas. Even if it doesn’t work as well for you as it does for me, at least your dentist will be happy, so there is that.short url: