With summer in full swing, barbecue season is upon us. While there are many reasons to watch what you eat at the barbecue (hello, heartburn), it’s also important to take your teeth and gums into consideration, especially if you know you already have gingivitis or a more severe form of gum disease. Below are a handful of foods that will either help or hinder your oral health. Be aware and happy eating!

Foods to watch out for

Barbecue sauce and other condiments: Barbecue sauce is a staple of the backyard get together. Unfortunately, the sugars and vinegar contained in many barbecue sauces (as well as other condiments) can damage the enamel on your teeth as well as encourage the spread of bacteria already in your gums.

Chips: What goes better with your cheeseburger than chips? However, the way they crack into several pieces when you chew them can be bad for your teeth and gums. Keep floss or toothpicks handy to pick the pieces stuck in your teeth.

White bread: Choose that burger or hot dog bun wisely. Processed white breads have sugar that can make bacteria worse.

Pickled veggies: Pickles are made with vinegar, and the brine can damage your teeth.

Juice and soda: Sodas and fruit juices have tons of sugar in them. Even diet sodas, with their high acidity level, can erode the enamel of your teeth. Limit yourself to one soda or juice and instead drink water.

Foods that can help your teeth and gums

Fiber rich fruits/veggies: Leafy and crunchy fruits and veggies are great for your teeth and gums. Load up on celery, carrots, apples and a side salad to go with your tasty burgers.

Dairy products: That cheese on your burger, along with other dairy products like milk and yogurt, are great for your teeth’s health and can strengthen them.

Onions: Another burger topping that can help improve your oral health are onions. They neutralize oral bacteria that can lead to gingivitis as well as cavities.

Sugarless gum: Chewing gum without sugars can help activate your saliva and move stray food particles around that may get stuck in teeth crevices.

Ginger: Ginger serves a dual purpose after a long day of barbecuing — its stomach-settling properties can help you get over any indigestion, AND its anti-inflammatory properties can promote the growth of healthy gum tissue.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge, you can enjoy your Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day barbecues to the fullest. Remember: you can still eat the good stuff. Just monitor your intake and when in doubt, use water to rinse out any stray food or brush your teeth if possible. Don’t forget that making regular dental appointments is crucial to maintaining your oral health in addition to watching what foods you eat. If you know you already have some form of gum disease, you have options on how to proceed with getting treated.

Happy grilling!