Sodium Polyphosphate and Gum Disease

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sodium polyphosphate is an umbrella term for a group of food additives that are combinations of sodium (a salt) and phosphate, an inorganic chemical. Sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) and its cousins, sodium hexametaphosphate (SHMP) and trisodium pyrophosphate (TSPP), are used to stabilize foods like mashed potatoes and curdled milk. They help foods retain their moisture, resulting in better texture and flavor. It also prevents foods from becoming greasy or falling apart during cooking or refrigeration.

Besides their use as food additives, these compounds have other uses. They can be used as cleaning agents to remove soap scum and water spots from kitchen appliances or automobiles. They can also be used as anti-corrosives and as a deflocculant in mineral processing and oil well drilling muds. sodium polyphosphates are hygroscopic, meaning they attract water molecules from the air. This is beneficial because they can enhance emulsification and increase water retention in foods such as meat, seafood and dairy products.

STPP and other phosphates can also curb the development of dental calculus, or hardened plaque, by trapping calcium (Ca2+) ions in saliva. This stops the formation of plaque and prevents its mineralisation. This is because the calcium cations are held in solution by the negatively charged chains of phosphates that make up the molecule. The chelating effect of the phosphates then allows the dissolved calcium to be absorbed normally by the digestive system and not integrated into the plaque matrix. This is why these compounds are very useful in preventing the onset of gum disease.