steak cooking on a grillIt’s barbecue season again in South Carolina, and that means meat, especially lots of delicious pulled pork. If you’re one of those people who loves barbecue every day of the week (and twice on Sunday), you’ll probably be happy to hear that eating more meat might control the growth of biofilms that lead to cavities and gum disease.

But don’t take this as an excuse to become completely carnivorous! The research is still preliminary, and we don’t know how big the impact is just yet.

A Protein That Restricts Bacterial Growth

Gum disease and tooth decay are caused by oral bacteria. These bacteria feed on the foods you eat, especially simple sugars and other carbohydrates. As these bacteria grow, they link together in colonies called biofilms where they’re protected by a protein blanket that isolates them from your saliva, which can kill them.

But now research suggests that the amino acid L-arginine, which is commonly found in meats and dairy foods, can inhibit bacterial growth. Researchers put developed biofilms in saliva that either did or did not include L-arginine. They found that 100 times more bacteria grew in the saliva that didn’t have L-arginine.

Even more importantly, they found that the type of bacteria that is most associated with serious gum disease, Gram-negative bacteria, was found in smaller numbers in the presence of L-arginine.

Not Quite Real-World Conditions

The good thing about this study is that it used a multispecies biofilm for its study. Many studies use just one species of bacteria to test their conditions.

However, there are still reservations about this study, which isn’t actually testing how a meat-heavy diet impacts your oral health. But it is intriguing, and it might help explain why cavemen had fewer cavities.

In the past, studies which showed vegans had more tooth decay blamed the association on the fact that most toothpastes aren’t considered vegan, so people weren’t protecting their teeth with proper preventive care. But maybe there is something in eating meat that may help keep our teeth and gums healthy. At any rate, that’ll be our story next time you see us with a plate heaped high with pulled pork.

If you would like to learn more about protecting your teeth from decay or if you need restorative dentistry in Columbia, SC, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.