Can Red Meat Help Your Teeth?

Even though some nutritionists and physicians may recommend moving away from a diet with red meat, new research from the University of Michigan and Newcastle University states that arginine, an amino acid found in red meat, poultry, and fish, may help your mouth break down bacterial biofilm, which leads to dental plaque.

From the researchers: “Alexander Rickard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, and colleagues, discovered that in the lab L-arginine—found in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, and is already used in dental products for tooth sensitivity—stopped the formation of dental plaque.

“This is important as bacteria like to aggregate on surfaces to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm,” Rickard said. “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.”

Biofilm was grown in saliva supplemented with 500 mM L-arginine. Dental biofilms are the culprits in the formation of dental caries (cavities), gingivitis and periodontal disease. Surveys indicate that nearly 24 percent of adults in the United States have untreated dental caries, and about 39 percent have moderate-to-severe periodontitis, a number that rises to 64 percent for those over age 65.”

Periodontal disease is caused by the plaque created by bacteria in your mouth. If left untreated, the plaque sits on your teeth and gums and hardens to form tartar. Tartar can’t be cleaned with a toothbrush and requires a professional cleaning from a dental hygienist.


Over time, plaque and tartar wreak havoc on your gums and causes gingivitis. Common gingivitis can still be treated by regular hygiene and visits to the dentist. However, once gingivitis becomes advanced, it leads to periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that become infected. The body then fights this infection, resulting in bone loss and destruction of the connective tissue that holds your teeth in place. In the end, the teeth may have to be removed to fight the infection and restore the mouth back to full health again.

While any dietary decisions should be made in consultation with trained physicians, we recommend a number of treatment options to reduce periodontal disease, which can lead to missing teeth and other severe dental problems.

If you have any lingering questions about how to maintain a beautiful smile, or if you would like to schedule a free consultation, please contact our team or make an appointment. Our incredible staff will give you the best dental care possible.

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Patient's Dental Dictionary | 6th Ave Periodontics