The problem of creating habits: establishing health-protective dental behaviors

Health Psychol. 1992;11(2):101-10. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.11.2.101.


We describe three experiments testing treatments to promote the performance of health-protective dental behaviors. Subjects included 55 women from an introductory psychology course (Experiment 1), 45 men and women (Experiment 2), and 81 older-than-average students identified as at risk for gum disease (Experiment 3). The interventions, derived from social cognitive theory, included health education, skills training, and self-monitoring. In each study, we examined the contribution of additional treatment components, including social support (Experiment 1), intensive contact (Experiment 2), and flexible goal setting (Experiment 3). Across experiments, the behavioral results were remarkably similar: Subjects exhibited excellent adherence while in the study but, at follow-up, reported behavior that differed little from baseline. We discuss parallels between attempts to promote health-protective dental behaviors and other health-promotion programs, and we describe different perspectives from which to address the problem of creating healthy habits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Dental Prophylaxis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education, Dental*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oral Health*