Dental Plaque ResearchResearchers at Newcastle University and the University of Michigan have discovered that the amino acid, L-arginine, has the ability to break down dental plaque. The amino acid L-arginine is found naturally in many foods such as fish, poultry, red meat, as well as in dairy products. This is good news for food lovers, as this amino acid has the latent ability to benefit millions of people by preventing cavities, as well as hindering the development of gum disease and tooth decay.

Currently used in dental products for tooth sensitivity, Alexander Rickard; an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health; and his colleagues discovered that L-arginine has the capability to stop the development of dental plaque. Bacteria that collects on the tooth’s surface forms dental plaque, a biofilm, and according to Rickard, this biofilm is a major contributor to the billions of dollars spent on dental treatments and office visits every year. In addition, dental biofilm also plays the leading role in the formation of dental caries (cavities), periodontal disease, as well as gingivitis. According to surveys conducted here in the United States, nearly 24 percent of adults have untreated cavities, while 39 percent have moderate-to-severe periodontitis; for those who are 65 and older the number of individuals with moderate-to-severe periodontitis rises to 64 percent.

This is good news for dental health, as most methods for dental plaque control today involve of the use of chemical antimicrobial agents such as chlorhexidine to target and kill plaque bacteria. However, these chemicals come with some side effects. The use of chlorhexidine can stain the teeth and affect a person’s taste buds; due to this, the use of antimicrobial treatments has been a subject of strong debate in recent years. However, researchers strongly believe that L-arginine can take the place of current plaque-controlling antimicrobials such as chlorhexidine, as there is a need for improved methods to control dental plaque. In the meantime, researchers still need to conduct more research on the use of L-arginine in order to figure out exactly how L-arginine causes the disintegration of dental biofilms, so stay tuned!