By Marisa Cohen
Updated: August 17, 2014
Greg Clarke

The ideal: Brush after every meal, and floss at least once a day. In a perfect world, you would brush and floss away all those little meal remnants before they had a chance to cause decay and damage.
The next best thing: Do something to loosen up the bacteria in your mouth.

  • Chew sugarless gum after you eat. “Chewing gum increases saliva, which can wash away food particles and neutralize some of the acids produced by food bacteria,” says Kimberly Harms, a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association and a dentist in Farmington, Minnesota.
  • Use a toothpick to get between teeth. Bacteria can linger between teeth and under the gum line, where a toothbrush can’t reach, and the only way to get them out is to remove them physically. While floss is best for tight spaces, a toothpick is a decent stopgap.