When you have a toothache, you might assume that you have a cavity. And a lot of the time, a cavity or leaky filling is the culprit. But, can a sinus infection cause tooth pain? The answer is: “Yes!”
If you are feeling pain (and pressure) in one or more of your upper teeth, and your dentist cannot see any dental complications that would cause you discomfort, he or she may ask you about the health of your sinuses. Here’s why.
Maxillary Sinuses and Maxillary Teeth
Although you have four pairs of sinus cavities in your head, the ones that cause your teeth the most trouble when they become inflamed or infected are the large maxillary sinuses, located on either side of your nose. The roots of your upper (maxillary) back teeth are located very close to the bottom of these sinuses—and whenever they become inflamed or infected, the walls of the sinus cavities swell and put pressure against the roots of your upper teeth. This typically results in an aching feeling.
Sinusitis (commonly known as a sinus infection) can be triggered by allergies, bacterial or fungal infections, the common cold and even nasal polyps. When your sinusitis is the result of a cold, it will probably go away within 10 days, but it may take longer if a bacterial infection has developed. Additionally, an acute or longer-lasting infection can cause the pain to travel down to your lower teeth.
Signs of a Sinus Infection
Sinusitis makes it difficult to breathe through your nose since your nasal passages may swell due to the infection. Normal drainage is often obstructed, causing mucus to build up. Other symptoms include thick yellow (or green) mucus that drains from your nose or down the back of your throat, as well as tenderness or pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead (which intensifies when you lean over). Besides pain or pressure in your upper teeth, you may also experience a cough, ear pressure, bad breath and a reduced ability to smell and taste.
In most cases, home remedies will help you get over the worst of the infection. But you should see your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve within a few days, you have a fever that persists or you have been having recurrent infections.
Signs That Tooth Pain Is Related to Sinus Issues
Symptoms of a cavity or dental-related tooth pain usually involve a sharp pain or sensitivity in a specific tooth when biting down on a hard piece of food or eating hot, cold or sweet foods. But sinus-related pain is a continuous pressure or an ache in the vicinity of the upper back teeth, not specific to any one tooth.
You may notice that you have nasal congestion on the same side as the tooth pressure and that the pressure worsens when bending, walking, nodding or standing up. At the same time, you may experience a throbbing headache or an earache along with a lot of nasal discharge.
Other Oral Health/Sinus Connections
Although sinusitis may cause tooth pain and pressure, most sinus infections don’t cause dental complications. However, if you are having trouble breathing through your nose—especially at night when you are sleeping—your mouth can dry out significantly, putting you at risk for tooth decay. Without adequate saliva to wash away bacteria from your teeth, the acids they produce can begin to decalcify your tooth enamel. To counter this, be sure to brush thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste before bed and after meals, and drink lots of water throughout the day.
While rare, an infected molar or wisdom tooth that has an abscess at its root tip can infect and damage the surrounding bone and tissue, including the maxillary sinus, which may need to be repaired after the tooth is removed. Interestingly, since most abscesses are painful and cause individuals to visit the dentist as soon as possible, they are often caught early enough to be treated with a root canal procedure (before major damage and tooth loss occurs).
So, if any of your colleagues ask, “Can a sinus infection cause tooth pain?” You can tell them with certainty, yes it can. But keep in mind that the most suitable analysis of the problem should always be done by a professional. Therefore, be sure to encourage your coworkers to see their dentist or doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.