Potential Uses of Arginine in Dentistry

Adv Dent Res. 2018 Feb;29(1):98-103. doi: 10.1177/0022034517735294.


Carious lesions develop in tooth surfaces where there is an imbalance of the processes of acid and alkali production by supragingival biofilms. Since low pH is the main driving factor in the development of carious lesions, most efforts to identify an effective anticaries therapy have focused on targeting the acid-producing bacteria and their mechanisms of acid production. An expanding area of oral microbiology has now been devoted to explore microbial metabolic activities that help to neutralize biofilm pH and thus inhibit the caries process. Arginine metabolism via the arginine deiminase pathway (ADS) produces alkali in the form of ammonia that counteracts the effects of biofilm acidification from bacterial glycolysis. ADS also functions as an adaptive strategy used by certain bacteria to thrive in oral biofilms. Substantial evidence accumulated from laboratory and clinical observations supports the hypotheses that measurements of arginine metabolism via ADS may serve as an important caries risk assessment criterion and that providing arginine regularly to supragingival biofilms can be an effective therapy for caries intervention. This article reviews the potential of arginine-based therapies such as the use of arginine as prebiotic, ADS+ strains as probiotics, and oral care formulations containing arginine for prevention and management of dental caries.

Keywords: antagonism; bacteria; biolfim; dental caries; health; plaque.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Antibiosis / drug effects
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Arginine / pharmacology*
  • Bacterial Load / drug effects
  • Biofilms / drug effects*
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Dental Caries / microbiology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Saliva / microbiology


  • Ammonia
  • Arginine