Amino acids are organic compounds that are merged together to form proteins. They are considered the building blocks of life.
But researchers at the University of Michigan and Newcastle University in England are reporting in a new study that the amino acid arginine also has a role in protecting teeth.
In a lab, arginine stopped the formation of dental plaque, according to results published in the May issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
Arginine is found in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, and is already used in dental products for tooth sensitivity, but its ability to break down dental plaque was not widely known until now, the study says.
"This is important as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms," said Alexander Rickard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, in the University of Michigan's Michigan News. "Dental plaque is a biofilm. Dental plaque films contribute to the billions of dollars of dental treatment and office visits every year in the United States."
A biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface, such as dental plaque on teeth.
The researchers called for more research into the use of arginine as alternative to antimicrobial treatments that have come under fire for allegations of overuse in the past few years. The use and misuse of antimicrobials has driven the expansion of resistant microbes leading to a loss of efficacy of this treatment.
"There is a clear need for better methods to control dental plaque," said Nick Jakubovics, a lecturer at Newcastle's School of Dental Sciences, in Michigan News.
The study can be seen in its entirety at myumi.ch/6O4qG.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.