New research reveals that a naturally occurring amino acid found in many foods can actually break down dental plaque, helping millions of people avoid dental decay, cavities, gingivitis and gum disease.
According to a May 8 Futurity article, a University of Michigan study found that L-arginine, an amino acid present in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy, prevents plaque from forming on the teeth.
“This is important, as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm,” Alexander Rickard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said of the study’s findings.
Rickard explained that dental plaque biofilms contribute to the billions of dollars spent on dental treatments and office visits each year, not to mention the $1.4 billion spent annually on tooth whitening procedures and products.
The consequences of having excess dental plaque can lead to much more serious health complications, like heart disease. Currently, some 24% of Americans have untreated tooth decay, while 39% have untreated gum disease. Among the over-65 population, the percentage of individuals with untreated gum disease rises to 64%.
The majority of anti-plaque treatments currently in use involve antimicrobial agents that can alter one’s sense of taste and even stain teeth, Futurity reports. The overuse of these agents, such as chlorhexidine, has been at the center of debate among dental professionals for the last few years. Replacing them with L-arginine could offer a more viable alternative for keeping teeth plaque-free without any negative side effects.
The University of Michigan researchers aren’t yet sure exactly how L-arginine causes plaque to disintegrate, but they believe the amino acid changes the way plaque cells stick together, making it difficult for the bacteria to adhere to teeth.
So if you want to keep your teeth cleaner and healthier, the answer may simply lie in eating more poultry or dairy products.