The Wall of Tooth Decay
One of the most amazing examples of fear based motivation was at my orthodontist’s office when I had braces as a child.
These appointments would consist of approximately 60 minutes of waiting time (which meant lots of Archie comics), a 20 minute adjustment, and then the orthodontist would come out and ask me to bite a lot and then send me on my way.
I went through a few appliances at this place: a retainer, headgear, braces, and eventually a permanent retainer.
And every single time I went, the doctor would require us to brush our teeth in a public sink before we came in for the adjustments. We each had our own cubby and special toothbrush too. He had a timer there, so that we could time out 2 minutes before returning to the waiting room.
And on the wall that you had to look at while you were brushing, were hundreds of photos of disgusting, gnarly, broken mouths. I mean, mouths where the teeth had gigantic holes in them, where the decay was so bad that you could actually see rotting nerves. It was horrendous. And you could see all of this while you brushed your teeth. There was no mirror.
At the time, I assumed that what was shown in the photos would happen to me if I didn’t brush. There wasn’t any sort of explanatory plaque with the photos, they just kind of sat there on the wall.
No dentist had ever motivated me like this guy. Those other dentists had yelled at me every time I came in, telling me how bad it was not to brush properly…which made me annoyed but not scared.
But at my orthodontist, I was terrified. Fear is a powerful motivator whether we like it or not. In this case, I had encountered an adult creatively and visually activating my fear to protect me from a future of poor dental health.
(I still had problems later on, but it wasn’t his fault.)