Researchers say amino acid found that stops dental plaque

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.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.