An amino acid found naturally in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products breaks down dental plaque, which could help millions of people avoid cavities and gum disease, a new research has found.
Already used in dental products for tooth sensitivity, the amino acid, arginine, stops the formation of dental plaque, the findings showed.
The findings suggest that the naturally found compound could one day replace the chemical substances currently used in dental plaque control methods.
"This is important as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm," said one of the researchers Alexander Rickard, assistant professor at the University of Michigan.
"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."
Dental biofilms are the culprits in the formation of dental caries (cavities), gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Most methods for dental plaque control involve use of antimicrobial agents, such as chlorhexidine, which are chemicals aimed at killing plaque bacteria, but they can affect sense of taste and stain teeth.
Antimicrobial treatments have been the subject of debate about overuse in recent years.
Pending further clinical trials to verify their lab findings, the researchers said L-arginine could take the place of the current plaque-controlling biocide substances including chlorhexidine and other antimicrobials.
In conducting their research, team members used a model system they introduced in 2013 that mimics the oral cavity. The researchers were able to grow together the numerous bacterial species found in dental plaque in the laboratory, using natural human saliva.
The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.