Teeth and the Focal Infection Theory

Are your teeth “connected” to other parts of your body? In other words, can an abscessed or infected tooth actually cause a problem somewhere else, say your lower back, sinuses, stomach or even your heart?

Focal Infection Theory (FIT) is the idea that a local infection affecting a small area of the body can lead to subsequent infections or symptoms in other parts of the body due either to the spread of the infectious agent itself or toxins produced from it. This theory became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially in the field of oral medicine. However, relatively recently current consensus in the dental community changed. It now suggests that FIT is not a valid reason to remove teeth or to avoid root canals.

As recently as Dougherty’s 1954 Textbook of Bacteriology and Galloway’s 1957 peer-reviewed JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article on tonsillectomies, FIT was still accepted as valid. Even as late as the late 1980s, in spite of a decline in the recognition of the focal infection theory, the association of decayed teeth with systemic disease is taken very seriously.

I personally believe that the focal infection theory has some merit. For many years I have observed and listened to my patients tell about their successful outcomes after the removal of hopeless teeth that were either abscessed, cracked or had extensive decay with symptoms of pain and discomfort.

To my surprise not only did their mouths feel better after the offending tooth was removed but I began hearing patients comments such as, “I feel more energetic,” “my back pain is gone,” “my sinuses are cleared,” “I have regular bowel movements now.”

I’m not sure what scientific tests or double blind studies can be performed that can accurately evaluate or even measure these results. However, I do know that I learn a lot by simply listening to my patients. Consistent patterns began to develop after these problematic teeth were extracted. The following testimonials are examples of post operative assessments provided by our patients.

Prior to coming to your office, my symptoms of pain ranged from lower back pain, headaches, shoulder and neck pain. These aches and pains affect my performance on the job as well as socially. I asked to have my tooth removed (a prior root canal tooth that had been bothering me for almost one year). Rather than re-treating the root canal I decided to extract it. Once this procedure was completed I have noticed a dramatic change in my whole body. My pain in my lower back is completely gone. I have no more headaches or shoulder and neck pain.
Keith, 36, Male

I had an infected, cracked molar that has been a problem on and off for me for about 6 months. During this time, I also noticed both my thyroid and my heart were bothering me. My heart had been pounding for months. Within minutes after the tooth was removed my heart returned to normal and I felt better than I had in months.
Bob, 47, Male

Biological dentistry has taught me to have an open mind when it comes to evaluating our patients’ over health and wellness. Hopefully, sooner than later, the oral cavity will receive the attention it deserves as our health care providers become more aware that the cause of their patients’ biological imbalances may have dental connections.

About Dr. Michael Rehme, DDS, CCN

Dr. Michael Rehme, DDS, CCN is one of the few Biological (Holistic) Dentists in St. Louis, MO and the U.S. that are Certified Clinical Nutritionists (CCN). He practices Biological Dentistry that includes mercury free, tooth colored fillings; healthy dental materials; balancing body chemistry; and nutritional therapy. For articles and information about Biological Dentistry (also referred to as Holistic Dentistry) and patient success stories visit www.toothbody.com or call his office 314-997-2550. Attend a free monthly presentation and discussion by Dr. Rehme on Biological Dentistry the third Tuesday each month at 6:30 pm and his dentistry office in St. Louis. Please call to verify the date.

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33 Responses to Teeth and the Focal Infection Theory

  1. Tony Harvey March 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    Thank-you very much for your open-mindedness and genuineness in posting these very reasonable non mainstream ideas (FIT etc) backed up by quoted feedback from some of your patients. I have just had a very decayed and infected (in the 3 roots) 20 years ago crowned (dead) non root filled tooth removed (the oral surgeon showed me & described its very bad state and I have kept it) and I definitely feel better in my whole body already after only a few hours. I will watch carefully but I will not be surprised if the removal of this liability on my immune system greatly improves the body symptoms I was suffering: tingling/mild numbness in fingers, sensation of heat in belly, interrupted bowel movements, cattargh, occasional unnatural raised heart rate etc. Despite mainstream dental orthodoxy I very much respect the alternative views of Dr Mercola, Weston-Price, Mestig etc, as well as your article above. I have also had about 7 50% mercury amalgam deep fillings removed under IAOMT safe procedures 2 years ago and felt better after this too. The oral surgeon said that dead root filled teeth often do not show local symptoms (obvious abcesses etc or anything on XRays) yet can be very infected underneath. I believe they are not safe and anerobic bacteria and their toxic waste products can cause systemic problems elsewhere in the body. If the nerve has died or been removed as part of a root filling then one has “muffled the alarm bells” and systemic problems showing uop decades later get attributed to old age etc.

  2. Reem April 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I need to know if teeth can affect the eyes???

  3. James February 28, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Dr. Weston A. Price did extensive research into this phenomena. It is well documented demonstrates with rare debate the connection between infected teeth and corresponding disease in the body.

  4. Suzie January 8, 2016 at 9:32 pm #

    I had just looked this topic up because this morning I had a back molar with a 20+ year old crown without a root canal extracted. My jaw had begun to ache about 10 days ago and my symptoms had become greater in number, all on the left upper quadrant of my face. My dentist’s inspection and Xray of the tooth showed a minor amount of infection but there was also enough play in the tooth he knew the root was cracked and unsaveable. After he extracted the tooth I came home and started to work, Within a few hours I realized I felt better. Not just better because the sinus headache I’d had for a week was gone but I also noticed that the chronic fatigue I had suffered with for years and Had attributed to the aging process has also been lifted from me. Who knows if it will last but the change was noticeable.

  5. Ciaarn January 25, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    May I canvass opinion on this, would the replacement of a failed root canal tooth with an implant be a safe alternative to a traditional extraction?

    Would an implant offer the same reassurance as a traditional extraction that a potential source of a focal infection has been removed?

    I am experiencing a lot of the same symptoms experienced by others in this thread but I am also desperate not to loose the tooth that I fought so hard to keep.

    • Office January 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      There is some debate among biological dentists as to the safety of implants. Some say they’re fine as long as they’re ceramic and biocompatible. However, research by Hal Huggins, among others, has suggested that *any* foreign body tends to produce autoimmune responses. According to Professor Doug Swartzendruber of the University of Colorado, “Anything implanted into bone will create an autoimmune challenge. The only difference is the length of time it takes for a disease to appear.”

      Fortunately, implants aren’t the only option. Even single-tooth partials are an option for replacing extracted teeth.

      • MariaMagdalena November 13, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

        Hello, what is ” Even single-tooth partials”? I need to make a decision about a molar with a very old root canal done. I suffer from autoimmune (Hashimoto’s) issues and fibromyalgia.

        • Office November 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

          It’s a partial (partial = partial denture) that consists of a single tooth which gently clasps onto the adjacent teeth.

  6. Murray B June 1, 2016 at 6:30 am #

    i have been diagnosed with bulbar ALS and have all the symptoms except lower motor neurone. My voice is now mostly gone and I have drooling starting,Aspirations when i drink, choking when i eat, fasciculations all over my body. I was at my dentist a new dentist for me as we had recently moved. He said that have a lot of root canals with bacterial infections surrounding them and sort of carefully mentions that the root canals could have an effect on other parts of my body. I have probably 8-10 root canals. Also I have a piece of a wheel bearing that healed over in my finger from a work injury that i noticed is changing in colour over the years. I have asked several Dr.s including my ALS people and nobody seems to think there could be a connection. After some reading here I am looking for any kind of help you could suggest. Both My wife and I have hypothyroidism and were diagnosed after we returned from living in Colombia over more than a 10 year period. We were a team of about 20 people doing missionary work there and I know of many of the others who also developed hypothyroidism as well. My son-in Law who also worked there for 10 years has now got it too. Just coincedence or am I on to something. Oh and by the way we all had dentistry root canals etc done there and here in Canada. Any thoughts you have would be welcome. MB

    • Office June 1, 2016 at 10:02 am #

      We’re sorry to hear about what you’re going through, MB. But we’re also glad you reached out.

      While we can’t comment on your specific situation, it’s been shown that root canal teeth may indeed contribute to autoimmune disorders such as ALS. So it would be worthwhile to consult a biological dentist for a thorough evaluation of your situation. If dental factors are involved, a biological dentist can work with you to develop a sensible plan for addressing them.

      One thing to keep in mind is that there may be other aspects of a health situation that may need to be dealt with first, before addressing the root canal teeth and any other sources of focal infection – so the body is able to detox and heal properly afterwards. Because of this, you may also wish to consult a physician well-versed in Biological (or Regulative or Functional) Medicine (or make sure the biological dentist you consult has good and substantial training in these areas).

      For more on root canals and related matters: http://biologicaldentalhealth.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-root-canals-dental-implants/

      There are several major directories of biological dentists available:


      If you’d like to talk about your specific situation in more detail, just give us a call here at the office: 314-997-2550.

  7. Jason Schnapp August 20, 2016 at 5:31 am #

    Hello. I also have a dying tooth, due to a temp filling that was too deep, from 20 yrs ago. I have been diagnosed with folicilitous. After tons of antibiotics that did nothing i have learned about staphylococcus. Over the years i have started getting hip and knee pain ONLY on the same side of my body as the tooth that i was recently informed is dying when i got my teeth cleaned. I have always had issues with the tooth but found keeping it flossed made it manageable. Apparently my dentists assistance have been overlooking the discolored tooth all this time ive been getting cleanings. Hopefully this information can be helpful in the studying of FIT. Im getting the tooth pulled soon and a swab for staphylococcus. I will report back.

  8. felix September 15, 2016 at 6:19 am #

    Earlier in my life I have had several root canals and my mouth has a few crowns and a few gaps now. I am certainly sporting a few dead teeth and a good dentist told me it was likely one crowned tooth has a small permanent infection (not one that bothers me or causes me any obvious issues).

    In the last 2 or 3 years I have developed Raynaud’s disease and after doing a little research I discovered several articles attributing root canals to this via an affected Thyroid. I do not seem to have any underacting Thyroid symptoms but keep myself extremely fit so it could be hard to tell. Some articles not only suggested a focal infection could be the cause but also the substances used to fill a root canal. I wonder if those substances remain after finally extracting a dead tooth that had had a previous root canal.

    Meanwhile, I have been considering for some time about getting quite a few implants to fill in my 3 gaps and replace 1 or 2 crowns. But with all this new stuff I am learning I am wondering if I want any foreign bodies permanently implanted into by bone. And should I have all my old mercury fillings removed as another good measure.

    So many questions….

  9. Robert g September 15, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    I have had adrenal fatigue low vitamin d being treated heart pounding I just had a focal infection tooth removed after much research trying to explain all this I’m getting three decayed tooth removed next week I’m taken probotics drinking lots of water to help detox I know all the nasty bacteria is going to flood me now lol will report back after next week once the other teeth are removed

  10. Nik October 5, 2016 at 2:46 am #

    Hi… I’m so glad I found this. I have been experiencing some similar issues. Back molar has been on and off infected for several months. Old filling has broken and come out twice. I’ve managed To deal with it by supplementing colloidal silver and rinsing constantly with the silver, avoiding the very feared dentist. I have gone to dentist this past week as I know the infection has gotten out of my control. Hypothyroidism, sever pain, jaw, neck, glands, ear, sinuses and extreme fatigue. I’ve also noticed chest pains which makes me very nervous. The dentist wants to do a root canal if possible on the molar and also one other one. I already have had one root canal performed some 17+ years ago. After reading this, I am leaning for sure towards just extracting the tooth. It’s the bottom back molar. Any suggestions or opinions. I do believe dental issues can correlate with other pars of the body and it makes me very nervous. Thanks for the forum and topic

    • Office October 5, 2016 at 11:21 am #

      Unfortunately, we can’t offer specific advice on your situation, but we’re glad you’re doing your research so you can make a truly informed decision about that tooth. That said, it would be worthwhile to have the tooth evaluated by a biological dentist, who could do so within the context of your overall health situation and advise accordingly.

      In the meantime, on this site, you’ll find many more resources you may find helpful in your decision-making process: http://biologicaldentalhealth.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-root-canals-dental-implants/

      • Nik October 5, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

        Thank you very much! I have opted to get the molar extracted but am trying to wait until the infection/abcess is gone as afraid having extraction will cause the bacteria to spread. Would you mind recommending a biological dentist in the Austin/San Marcos Texas area?

        • Office October 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

          You’re welcome! We’re glad to help.

          There are a number of excellent biological dentists in your area. See https://iaomt.org/search/region/texas/ and https://iabdm.org/?geodir_search=1&stype=gd_place&s=+&snear=Austin%2C+TX&sgd_placecategory%5B%5D=&customchange=1&gdas-range=50&sgeo_lat=30.267153&sgeo_lon=-97.74306079999997. They should be able to recommend protocols to help with the infection before, during, and after extraction, as well.

          • Nik October 11, 2016 at 1:56 am #

            Thank you very much! Today is day 7 of antibiotics and I finished them so hopefully now I can get the tooth extracted. Although, I do still have pain, swelling and tenderness underneath jaw bone and up into the TMJ and ear. I have read so much I feel more informed but also extremely anxious. Would you mind offering your opinion on extracting a tooth with infection and if there are dangers associated with this sort of condition? Thank you for your help!

          • Office October 11, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

            Do ask your dentist about those persistent symptoms.

            With respect to extracting diseased teeth, there are a couple of general key points to keep in mind. For one, thorough cleaning and management of the surgical site is important for preventing the development of cavitations (see http://toothbody.com/cavitations/). If you’re working with a biological dentist, they should be able to refer you to an oral surgeon knowledgeable in this area.

            Additionally, a biological dentist should be able to provide you with – or refer you out for – nutritional, homeopathic, or other protocols to support your body’s self-healing abilities and thus your recovery afterward.

  11. Carmelina October 12, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    I found your letters and reply very informative . Thank you all

  12. Jan Reed January 25, 2017 at 5:44 am #

    I have just had a tooth out, and so strangely, but perfectly true, my lower back pain has disappeared. I cannot believe it. I thought we needed a new mattress, but it would appear now the tooth has gone, so has my backache.

    • Jenny June 29, 2017 at 7:06 am #

      I have had chronic lower back pain for many years and yesterday had a root canal tooth out that had infections for the last 18 months. Last night and today no back pain. I have had inflammation throughout my body for a few years now and very ill. Drs have just shrugged it all off telling me to lose weight. My cholesterol levels rise to 12 and not 5.0 like it should be and 4 hours sleep at night due to heat issues which I told Drs was my body fighting the inflammation and they tell me menopause. I hope I am on the road to recovery. I have 2 other root canal teeth which one is also giving me grief but not infected……yet. I was so ill for a couple of months and had no energy to get out of bed with the tooth infection but 6 courses of antibiotics were the answer from several different Drs. Losing faith.

  13. Carlos February 1, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    Hello I’m 28 I was diagnosed with prostatitis. I have two bad wisdom teeth on the bottom and one cracked tooth at the bottom. It all started 2 months ago with a tooth ache with dizzyness and then one morning I had frequent urination went to doctor he did exam and said my prostate was swollen. Then I had urine and blood work done everything came back negative. I know I need these teeth removed asap. I was wondering could it be connected to bad teeth

    • Office February 2, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

      It sounds like a situation worth checking out. A biological dentist should be able to do testing that will provide some clarity. If you’re in the St. Louis area, please give us a call: (314) 997-2550. If not, check the directories of the three main holistic and biological dental associations for a dentist near you: http://iaomt.org, http://iabdm.org, http://holisticdental.org.

  14. Melinda Russell March 22, 2017 at 1:09 am #

    This was very interesting to read, ive been told by my dentist that i need about 4-6 teeth extracted, i have been so nervous to get this done..i have been having so many body aches, bowel problems and thyroid issues. After reading this, i know i need to get this done..and i have anxiety with racing HR..

    • Office March 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Sometimes our anxiety gets the better of us all. Trust that you are in good hands and whoever is caring for you has been training their whole life to help you in the is moment.

  15. Steven R. Bruner April 4, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Hi, I just had a infected lower front tooth pulled yesterday and my lower back feels better and I have more energy today. My whole body feels more relaxed. I can breath better also. The tooth had been loose for about a year and causing problems. Should have done it sooner I think.

  16. JR May 19, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

    I am sorry that only anecdotal reports are given, as my symptoms more than suggest that three teeth, of what remains, will need to be extracted. But I have sudden vision loss, along with ongoing pressure and pulsating on one side of my head. While non-dental investigations continue, the question of one or more of the teeth as a source, cannot be delayed if I decide that I believe in the focal infection theory. Quite simply, I would rather not, but I no longer know who or what to believe, and, oftentimes, it is the anecdotal that, regardless of validity, supplies the answer. It may not be medically sound, but then again, most medical explanations – does “etiology” ever apply? are guesses.

    There is no money for dentures. Medicare does not cover dental. I followed the link to the biologic, or close-to biologic dentists listed on the iaomt.org website, and found the dentists listed for my state. I think it was only one dentist that had anything whatsoever to do with that organization, one purported to be “green,” (read as even more expensive – for the elite), and the dentists with iaomt.org connections showed up in many different states following a name search, so that it looks like they hit a place hard and fast and then have to leave. No confidence there.

    So. May there be an infection from these teeth that is causing me to lose my vision? Sure. But there might not be one thing I can do about it, and I am certain there are many, many others in a similar fix.

    • Vahe345 September 6, 2018 at 11:52 am #

      God bless you man hope things work out. I think from what i read in prices books it can effect the eye. If i were you i would do my best to rule everything else out but i guess you got to take action on what your instincts say if there is nothing else to do. I am in a position where i have symptoms that i think are from a tooth infection. I am hoping that removing a tooth or two that pain comes from i can heal and return to my normal energy levels, digestive health, and no more random odd symptoms.


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