Nearly everything you see in the grocery store contains some type of sugar, often in food items you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find it in.

Given its many forms, from sucrose and dextrose to high fructose corn syrup and whatever other names it hides behind, is it any surprise that many people are addicted to the sweet stuff?

The problem, of course, is the danger that it presents to your teeth. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet will help to reduce the damage, although it might not be an easy task. You will have to pay more attention to what you eat, and sometimes that can be exhausting. However, keeping your teeth, and ending the tyranny of sugar cravings, make the effort worthwhile. Here are some tips and tricks to help you beat the sugar monster once and for all.

What is a Cavity?

You don’t develop a cavity for every piece of candy you eat or cup of coffee you drink, so how does it work? While your mouth is a veritable ecosystem of bacteria, most of those bacteria do in fact benefit you. There are some harmful varieties that feed on sugars and create acids that destroy your tooth enamel. Your enamel, similar to a suit of armor, is bright and shiny and protects your teeth from harm.

A cavity is a bacterial infection caused by the acids which form a hole in your enamel. Without treatment, these can grow deeper, causing pain and eventual tooth loss. Sugar-related dental problems are still the most widespread cause of poor oral health and disease.

Ditch the Artificial Sweeteners

Ditching artificial sweeteners in certain foods or drinks, such as your coffee or your morning breakfast, can help eliminate your sweet cravings. Instead of reaching for a box of cereal, try going for some fruit and eggs. Instead of adding sugar to your coffee, try using straight cream. You could be even more daring and add in a natural sugar like pure agave. A little goes a long way, although this doesn’t mean you can go overboard with it. Nonetheless, natural sweeteners are still preferable to artificial or refined white sugar.

Avoid the Temptation

Clean our your pantry. If you don’t have any sugar in your house, it is considerably easier to avoid caving in and devouring something you shouldn’t. Do the same for your desk or office at work, as people typically reach for a sugary snack or drink when they’re stressed. Plan out your meals ahead of time to help curb the need for sweets, and build in natural highs instead. By learning when you’re most likely to crash due to low blood sugar, you can prevent a fair amount of snacking.

Create a Backup Plan

Most resolutions fail because people don’t plan for the days when things get too tough. To help the future you, create a backup plan or two; heck, create seven if you need to. Think proactively about the times you start to get a craving, and the types of distractions you can turn to, such as running or meditating. You may even find a friend or family member with whom to commiserate when you feel like you’re going to cave. Find something, or several somethings, that you know will keep your mind focused.

If you’re looking to help prevent cavities, it’s also important to note that brushing twice a day, and flossing once, are necessary habits. Making twice-yearly visits to your dentist for cleanings and checkups can also help keep you on track toward your goals. Taking the time to make these changes in your day-to-day life will help your teeth in the long run. As you see the benefits of having cut out the sugar, you will have a renewed sense of confidence in your smile.