Sinus Toothache: Causes and Symptoms

If you’ve ever had a toothache or perhaps you’re suffering from a toothache right now, your dentist will always ask you about your symptoms and assessing the issue. At first, you might wonder why they ask simple questions when your tooth is hurting, but it’s because they’re trying to find out if the tooth hurts due to a dental issue, or if it is a sinus toothache. Sinus infections have many side effects, and tooth pain is another to add to the list.

Causes of a Sinus Toothache

Found above the very back teeth, we have what we call the ‘maxillary sinuses.’ When these are infected, there is inflammation in the area, causing extra pressure in their mouth. Since maxillary sinuses are located beneath the cheeks, there’s a crossover point between them and the roots of your upper back molars, premolars, and more. Since you’ll feel pain in your teeth, it’s easy to confuse sinusitis with an actual dental problem.

When bacteria infect the upper teeth, it commonly spreads down to the maxillary sinuses.  Now you might be wondering how the two health conditions can be distinguished. Without seeing a professional, the source of tooth pain can be tricky to diagnose. However, there are three main symptoms of a sinus toothache.

Symptoms

Firstly, the most obvious symptom is the pain and aching sensation you’ll feel in and around your teeth. If you have allergies, this aching can lead to pain in the molars as well as increased sensitivity when eating something hot/cold. When looking for the difference, check to see if you have mucus buildup in your nose. A dental issue shouldn’t create mucus buildup. When the upper molars are affected, it’s typically caused by a mucus buildup plugging up the sinuses.

Secondly, you might experience pressure within the sinuses, across your face, or even in your head.  An infection in the maxillary sinuses will cause this pressure to build as the issue worsens and spreads into the roots of your teeth. When this happens, we mistake it for a problem with our teeth when it is actually a side effect of the original issue.

Since a sinus infection causes this type of toothache, patients might experience dry mouth and sometimes even a dry throat. Although you might think saliva is a trivial part of oral health, it actually prevents bacteria from building in the mouth. Unfortunately, allergies for those with sinusitis can cause a lack of saliva, creating a dry mouth.  Without saliva, bacteria can grow easily.

With these three major symptoms, you may also experience some smaller issues such as cheek sensitivity, swollen gums, facial swelling, a runny nose, and a headache.  Some people find their energy drains much faster, which leads to fatigue earlier in the day.

A cross section of a tooth, showing gums. Irritation of the gums by lack of saliva and post nasal drip causes sinus toothache.

Sinus tootache is usually caused by problems with the surrounding gum tissue, not because of tooth decay.

Finding Relief

To finish, we’ll offer a little advice to those struggling with a sinus toothache.  The first step is to drink plenty of fluids to cope with dry mouth. Fluids can help saliva production, preventing the buildup of bacteria and preventing the issue from worsening.

After drinking fluids, we then recommend talking to your doctor/dentist depending on where you think the pain originates. If you’ve had a sinus infection previously and you feel your sinuses acting up, you should see the doctor first.  They’ll be able to provide you with advice. For starters, they’ll have you take over-the-counter decongestants. After taking these, you should see sinus pressure start to disappear, which is the first step to recovery.

If you’re already experiencing pressure in the sinuses, these medicines may take some days to work, but your doctor should advise you on this. With some, they’ll also recommend a decongestant spray, and these can work a little faster if you’re having trouble sleeping or concentrating at work.

With a sinus toothache, the best solution will always be to fight the infection first rather than treating the tooth pain in isolation. Your doctor will always look to address the issue causing all the other side effects, and this means dealing with the sinus infection.

If you need home remedies to relieve the pain in the short-term, many people like turmeric paste, Oregon grape root tincture, and sometimes even garlic; a simple search online will bring up plenty of recipes!

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