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Fight Dental Plaque: Eat More Steak and Poultry

May 19, 2015

By Dean George

Talk about having your steak and eating it too.  Arginine, or L-arginine, is a common amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish, grains, nuts and seeds that may stop the formation of dental plaque, according to a recent research study.

L-arginine is widely used for its heart and circulatory benefits, as well as its ability to help maintain a healthy immune system and healthy hormone functions.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Newcastle University believe the amino acid L-arginine could also help millions of people avoid cavities and gum disease by preventing the biofilm that creates dental plaque from sticking to teeth.

“Dental plaque biofilms contribute to billions of dollars of dental treatments and office visits every year in the United States,” said Alexander Rickard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “This is important as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm,” Rickard said.

According to Rickard, L-arginine is already used in dental products for tooth sensitivity and is found in some toothpaste.  However, unlike chlorhexidine and other antimicrobial agents, L-arginine doesn’t stain teeth or affect the sense of taste.

As an earlier study reported in 2013, agrinine and calcium salt were added to fluoride toothpaste and appeared to reduce cavities over time. Evidence from that two-year long Bangkok, Thailand study suggested mixing L-arginine with fluoride changed the acidic balance in the mouth.

In the more recent University of Michigan and Newcastle study, a model was built that imitated the oral cavity and used natural human saliva to grow different bacterial species found in dental plaque.

The researchers say L-arginine appears to change how the cells in biofilm cling together so they no longer stick to teeth. They also add that more research is needed to confirm how it disintegrates the dental plaque biofilm.

As previously reported in Dental Wire, the American Dental Association (ADA) has acknowledged that the phosphorous contained in steak helps protect tooth enamel and bone. The ADA said that the constant chewing required when eating red meat also generates healthy saliva and aids teeth and gums.

Pending further clinical trials, the researchers believe that L-arginine could one day replace chlorhexidine and other microbials as the primary cavity-fighting agent in toothpaste. 

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