Focal infection theory holds that problems in one part of the body can and do affect health throughout the body. And for decades, the dental establishment has pooh-poohed it.
Just this past week, BDJ published a summary of a new paper  that “revists” the concept of focal infection.
Between 1947 and 1989, 82 papers were published, addressing possible links between oral and systemic disease. Since 1989, however, there have been more than 1,200 such publications. These indicate that there are associations between oral disease and conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, diabetes, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis and infant low birth weight. Whilst these links are not established as causal, the relationship between the mouth and the rest of the human body is being made yet again but this time on a scientific basis, showing that the dental profession does have a role to play in the health of the patient as a whole.
The same issue featured an interview with Paula Moynihan , a Professor of Nutrition & Oral Health at Newcaste Univesity School of Dental Sciences and next in line to be president of the International Association of Dental Research. One of her aims? “Help bridge the gap between oral health and systemic health.”
Notably, Moynihan isn’t a dentist. She’s a nutritionist. Maybe it takes a non-dentist to help kick establishment dentistry out of its rut.
For she also seems to favor a more vigorous, honest, and sensible approach to prevention than conventional dentistry promotes.
Fluoride and oral hygiene are important but I think there’s only so much we can achieve with fluoride. Dental caries isn’t a fluoride deficiency disease, the fluoride is simply mopping up some of the damage caused by sugars, or some might argue that it’s simply delaying it and making cavitation occur at a later stage, that fluoride makes the teeth more resistant but eventually the decay still occurs, as highlighted in the work of late Aubrey Sheiham and Eduardo Bernabie at UCL. It’s not universally accepted but I still think you need to get rid of the cause. Aubrey worked with Eduardo Bernabie and suggested that dental caries increases with age independent of cohort effects so that would suggest now that dental caries is occurring later, so we need to get rid of the cause, and the cause is dietary sugars.
This is a breath of fresh air. No, it’s not complete. You can’t talk about the oral-systemic link without also acknowledging the issues we noted last week  – toxicity related to mercury fillings, root canal teeth, implants, and more. You also can’t discuss it without acknowledging the role of the biological terrain in guiding whether and how oral conditions will manifest in systemic symptoms and dysfunction.
But it’s a step forward, and every step forward is a win for both the dental profession and the people it serves. That should never be discounted.