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Study finds vegetarians could be damaging their teeth

By – Bad Breath Expert
Posted: May 13, 2015, Updated: April 4, 2016
SUMMARY: Researchers at the University of Michigan and Newcastle University believe they have found an amino acid that helps prevent the build-up of dental plaque.

A recent study conducted by the University of Michigan and Newcastle University has researchers believing they have found a natural substance that helps prevent the build-up of dental plaque. Unfortunately, for those who support a consistent vegetarian diet, this amino acid, which goes by the name of l-arginine, is mostly found in various meat and dairy products.

Dr. Alexander Rickard, assistant professor of epidemiology at U-M's School of Public Health, and colleagues identified l-arginine as an amino acid that can be found in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. L-arginine is noted to be effective against dental plaque build-up and has been frequently used in dental care products to help treat tooth sensitivity.

"This is important as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm," Rickard said to Daily Mail. "Biofilms account for more than 50 percent of all hospital infections. Dental plaque biofilms contribute to the billions of dollars of dental treatments and office visits every year in the United States."

Biofilms, such as plaque, can become a source of bacteria than can be quite harmful to one's teeth. Severe plaque build-up can result in cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis.

"At present, around 10 to 15 percent of adults in the Western world have advanced periodontitis, which can lead to loose teeth and even the loss of teeth," said Dr. Nick Jakubovics, a lecturer at Newcastle University's School of Dental Sciences. "Therefore, there is a clear need for better methods to control dental plaque."

Next steps for the study
The study into l-arginine and its effects on plaque build-up will go into further testing. But the researchers hope that it can reveal new methods of plaque defense moving forward to contrast the use of antimicrobial agents, such as chlorhexidine, chemicals that are meant to act as antibiotics in oral care, but have been up for debate due to theories that they affect the sense of taste, stain teeth and have become overused.

Researchers believe that l-arginine can change how cells stick together to and give bacteria an opportunity to prosper and lead to future damage. One of the ways that they suspect this will be possible will be by triggering bacteria within biofilms so that they no longer stick to surfaces. 

While this doesn't mean that vegetarians should go changing their diet to protect their teeth just yet, it does reveal that there's a chance that the argument that they're depriving their bodies of natural substances found in meat and dairy products could have more ground to stand on moving forward.