The Tooth/Body Connection: Focal Infection

by | May 24, 2023 | Biological Dentistry

By Michael G. Rehme, DDS, NMD, CCN, FIAOMT

Are your teeth really “connected” to other parts of your body? 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 centuries, especially in the field of oral medicine; then consensus in the dental community changed. By the last decades of the 20th century, FIT was no longer considered a valid reason to remove teeth or to avoid root canals.

Yet as recently as Dougherty’s 1954 Textbook of Bacteriology and Galloway’s 1957 peer-reviewed JAMA article on tonsillectomies, FIT was still accepted as valid. Even in the late 1980s, in spite of a decline in the recognition of the focal infection theory, the association of decayed teeth with systemic disease was taken very seriously by some dentists.

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

To my initial surprise, not only did their mouths feel better after the offending tooth was removed; I began hearing patients say things like, “I feel more energetic,” “My back pain is gone,” “My sinuses are cleared,” and, “I have regular bowel movements now.”

I’m not sure what scientific tests or double blind studies could be performed to accurately evaluate or even measure results like these. I do know that I learn a lot by simply listening to my patients. Consistent patterns developed after these problematic teeth were extracted.

Here are just a couple examples of the many patient testimonials I’ve heard over the years:

  • Keith, 36: Prior to coming to your office, my symptoms of pain ranged from lower back pain to headaches, shoulder, and neck pain. These aches and pains affected 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. Since 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.
  • Bob, 47: 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.

Biological dentistry has taught me to have an open mind when it comes to evaluating our patients’ overall health and wellness. Hopefully – and sooner rather 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.

Updated from the original

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