From focal sepsis to periodontal medicine: a century of exploring the role of the oral microbiome in systemic disease.

Kumar PS
J Physiol 595 465-476 01/15/2017


The oral microbiome is established within a few minutes after birth and consists of stable multi-species communities that engage in a dynamic equilibrium with the host immune system. Dental caries, endodontic infections and periodontal diseases are bacterially driven diseases that are caused by dysbiotic microbiomes. Over a century ago, the focal infection theory implicated these infections in the aetiology of several systemic diseases, ranging from arthritis to neurodegenerative diseases. However, a lack of concrete evidence, combined with the urgency with which clinicians embraced this approach without regard for appropriate case selection, led to its demise within 30 years. In the last decade of the 20th century, the concept of periodontal medicine was introduced to explain the correlations that were being observed between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, pulmonary disease, pre-term delivery of low birth weight infants and metabolic disease. It was proposed that periodontal pathobionts played a causal role in the initiating or exacerbating certain diseases either by direct invasion or by stimulating a florid immune-inflammatory response that extended into the systemic circulation. This review will examine the strength of current evidence in establishing a causal link between oral pathobionts and systemic disease.

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