Sometimes knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what you should do when it comes to oral health and hygiene. You know to brush and floss regularly after meals, and you know to schedule routine teeth cleanings in order to have your teeth and gums regularly assessed and supported by dental healthcare professionals.

And while you might have grown up being encouraged to drink milk for healthy teeth and bones, do you know what foods and drinks to avoid?

Limit Your Intake from this Lineup

You’re probably already ingesting them because they are so much a part of the American diet. But, if you’re aware of the culprits that challenge the healthy condition of your teeth and gums, you can limit how many of these foods and beverages you consume.

Knowing why these foods and drinks are problematic can actually make it easier to avoid them. For most of us, just being told not to do something isn’t reason enough to comply. So, we’ve rounded up a short, but significant list of the foods and beverages you should avoid in order to protect your teeth and gums.

Culprit #1: Sugary Snacks

Since so many of us love sugar, it can be hard to resist the temptation of enjoying a sugary snack. But maybe if more of us associated sugar with bacteria, we’d be less inclined to pig out on pastries, cookies, cakes, and candy. Bacteria love sugar, too, and when bacteria eat sugar it creates acid, which in turn leads to tooth decay. Charming.

Candies, specifically hard candy like lollipops, or chewy candies like jellybeans or caramels have too much contact with your teeth. The time it takes to consume these treats allows the bacteria in your mouth to gorge itself on the sugar and pump up acid production. It’s best to avoid sugary-laden snacks whenever possible. If you haven’t kicked your childhood candy habit, opt for sugar-free varieties instead.

Culprit #2: Starch

Starch, specifically white flour starch, is actually just as bad as sugar because that’s ultimately what it becomes. White flour starches – think chips, crackers, bread, pasta – are simple carbohydrates, which can hang out in your mouth for a long while before breaking down into simple sugars. Enter the tooth decay-causing bacteria yet again. Better options are multigrain breads, whole grain pastas, and snacks made from whole wheat, rather than white flour.

Culprit #3: Carbonated Soft Drinks

Not just the high concentration of sugar, but the carbonation and phosphorus found in both regular and diet sodas erode tooth enamel, leaving behind dull stains. Other popular drinks like sports or energy drinks, iced teas, and lemonade also fall under this category because of their sugar content and acidity.

In order to reduce the amount of contact with your teeth, drink these beverages with a straw, and only on occasion. The same goes for fruit juices, which often have added sugars and a higher concentration of sugar than the fruits themselves. Speaking of fruits…

Culprit #4: Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits have a lot to recommend them with respect to immunity-boosting vitamins and antioxidants. But, because they are so acidic, they can also do a number on your tooth enamel, much in the same way that sugar does. Again, limit your consumption of these fruits if you want to protect the shine and strength of your tooth enamel.

Moderation is the name of the game when it comes to consuming these foods and beverages. Opting for water and low-sugar snacks is a great habit for a long-lasting, radiant smile. Cheers to that!