Veganism: Good for Body, Bad for Teeth?

You are what you eat, right? There's a lot of debate about the pros and cons of vegan diets, but the effect it has on oral health is seldom discussed. A recent study published in The Public Library of Science (PLOS) ONE reports that a diet without animal products may impact oral health.

Researchers discovered that the tooth-friendly amino acid arginine, which is found naturally in meat and dairy, is a strong contributor to breaking down dental plaque. The study focused on the effects of L-arginine (a specific type of arginine), and how it inhibits bacterial coaggregation, a process in which genetically distinct bacteria attach to one another via specific molecules. Scientists discovered that this amino acid successfully stopped biofilms from growing within two different sample types of salivary bacteria, preventing the growth of dental plaque.

Although the study couldn't conclude why this specific arginine halted plaque growth, the fact still remains that incorporating chicken, fish and cheese into one's diet naturally boosts amino acid levels for cavity prevention. Hope is not lost for those who follow a vegan diet: there are toothpastes with boosted levels of arginines, and medical professionals suggest supplementing beans, especially soy beans, bean sprouts and black beans to help increase this type of amino acid levels (although they still won't reach the same level as meat and dairy).

The exact mechanism behind L-arginine's decay fighting ability is yet to be determined, but this study's conclusions are intriguing and remind us of the importance of a balanced diet for our entire bodies—including our teeth.

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