Brushing and flossing are the keys to healthy gums and a great smile. If you really want to get on your dentist's good side, here are five tips to try:

  • First: Lay off the carbs. Dr. Christine Gerbstadt is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. She says that when it comes to your smile, snacking on a bagel is as bad as eating a candy bar. That's because both provide plenty of fuel for the growth of bacteria that causes tooth decay.
  • Another tip for a healthier smile: Snack on crunchy fruits and veggies. Dr. Jeff Golub-Evans is the founder of the New York Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He says that apples, celery, and carrots act like little toothbrushes when you chew them. They not only get rid of cavity-causing plaque, but if you eat them regularly, they'll also scrub away stains.
  • Okay, would you like whiter teeth? Switch from coffee to tea. According to research at the Chicago College of Dentistry, the antioxidants found in tea help prevent stain-inducing plaque from sticking to your tooth enamel.
  • With spring and summer just around the corner, this next tip is timely: Brush after every swim. Matt Messina is a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. He says that heavily chlorinated pool water is so acidic that it can etch your teeth, especially if you're goofing around and spitting water at each other. You don't have to give up swimming. Just make sure you drink plenty of fresh water after you get out of the pool to rinse away the acid.
  • The last tip for a healthier mouth: Kiss more often. Dr. Anne Murray is a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. She says that kissing increases saliva production - which rinses your mouth and helps keep teeth cavity-free. If you're not in a relationship, don't sweat it. Sugar-free gum may not be as fun as kissing, but it's just as effective.