There has been a lot of debate about whether a meat-heavy diet or meatless diet is better for your health. Carnivores think they now have an extra tick mark in their column, thanks to new research suggesting that a protein found in meat and dairy might help control oral biofilms–the layer of bacteria that form on teeth and gums.

But meat advocates shouldn’t get too excited–this research is only a small part of a larger puzzle, and doesn’t suggest that eating more meat might control gum disease or prevent receding gums and cavities.

A Protein That Restricts Bacterial Growth

The most important enemy when it comes to gum disease is oral bacteria. Controlling oral bacteria is the goal of tooth brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. If our diet can help us control them even more, that’d be great, so the discovery of a natural part of our diet that combats bacteria creates some excitement. 

That’s why this paper published in PLOS One has generated some attention. It shows that the amino acid L-arginine inhibits bacterial growth. They put developed microfilms in saliva that was free of bacteria, both with and without L-arginine.  Researchers found that at body temperature the amount of bacterial growth was significantly less (by 100-fold or more) when L-arginine was present. They also found that L-arginine seemed to increase the effectiveness of a particular antimicrobial compound. 

Perhaps even more important, they found that the proportion of Gram-negative bacteria–which plays a crucial role in the development of serious gum disease (periodontitis).

The good part about this study is that it worked with already-established multi-species biofilms. That’s a more realistic condition than the single-species biofilms many studies look at. 

Not Quite Real-World Conditions

Despite the kudos for using a multispecies biofilm, this study still falls short of what meat advocates claim it says. This study doesn’t actually tell us that eating meat reduces cavities, or even biofilms. First, at least one source says that four of the five top sources of arginine are actually vegetable. So, unless you’re eating sea lion liver, you’re better off eating vegan foods to get arginine. But even if you listen to other sources that tout the L-arginine quantities in meat, that still doesn’t say that eating more meat will protect your oral health. 

The evidence is mixed. One good study suggested that vegetarianism might be better at protecting your gums, while a non-vegetarian diet might protect your teeth. 

With no clear evidence that adding meat to your diet will prevent receding gums, it’s best not to change your diet on that basis.

But if you have already suffered receding gums, gum rejuvenation can restore your gums to a healthy, attractive appearance. Please call (949) 551-5902 in Orange County today for an appointment to discuss the procedure.