When we notice our teeth starting to hurt, making a special visit to the dentist is often one of the first things we consider. The health of our teeth is important to maintain, so when you think of addressing a toothache right away, your instincts are serving you well.
However, not every toothache necessarily requires dental care. There may be something else going on beneath the surface. It is actually common to experience a toothache due to your sinuses.
A sinus-related toothache does not mean there is a problem with your teeth. Although you distinctly feel the pain in the teeth, the pressure and drainage due to a sinus infection or inflammation is what causes the teeth to ache.
How can you tell when a toothache is really a symptom of a sinus issue and not an actual dental concern? It is important to be able to tell the difference. A genuine issue with your teeth is important to discuss with your dentist right away. However, knowing in advance the signs of tooth pain caused by your sinuses could help you avoid taking an unnecessary seat in the dentist’s chair. In this article, we’ll explore the causes and symptoms of a sinus toothache and what you can do to find relief.
What Causes a Sinus Toothache?
The sinuses are air-filled spaces in the skull, which usually allow air to move through painlessly when healthy. They are located in four places: behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks, and eyes. When bacteria infiltrate the sinuses, they become infected or inflamed, and as a result, can become congested and swollen. This causes the painful pressure we feel when we have a sinus infection.
Inside the cheekbone above the upper jaw are the maxillary sinuses. The bottom of the maxillary sinuses are very close to the roots of the upper molars. When these particular sinuses are swollen or inflamed, the building pressure pushes down on the roots of the upper back teeth, producing a toothache in those specific teeth.
Symptoms of a Sinus Toothache
Whether or not your toothache is sinus-related or an actual issue with your teeth can be tricky to determine. Some describe the pain as similar to having an abscess, which would require dental care. Here are the symptoms to be aware of to help you know if the pain you are experiencing is simply caused by your sinuses and not a dental concern:
- Tend to occur in the top molars, close to the maxillary sinuses.
- Usually affects more than one tooth at once.
- Also produce pressure around the eyes, nose, and forehead.
- May be accompanied by thick mucus or a bad-tasting nasal drip.
- Can produce Halitosis (bad breath).
- Can cause ear discomfort, fever, sore throat, hoarse voice, and fatigue.
- Can cause temporary loss of taste and smell.
- Will go away once the sinuses are cleared up. This often happens on its own within 7-10 days.
If you have a toothache located in a small, focused area, a singular tooth, or if the pain is in teeth other than your upper molars, then it is unlikely to be related to your sinuses. In this case, you would want to have your teeth examined by your dentist without delay.
Treating a Sinus Toothache
Since the tooth pain caused by sinus pressure has nothing to do with the tooth itself, there is very little a dentist is able to do to treat this kind of toothache. If needed, a dentist is able to confirm that the pain is in fact due to sinus pressure to clear up any doubt or confusion. Sinus infections are not contagious. Still, please ensure you are not actually sick or have a fever before visiting your dentist.
Treatment for a sinus toothache is focused on reducing swelling and inflammation on the sinuses so they no longer create pressure on the roots of the molars. Most of these treatments can be done at home. If the discomfort persists after trying these remedies, consult your doctor who can advise on additional remedies to try.
- Stay hydrated: This allows the mucus to become thin, reducing blockages and relieving pressure (Note: Caffeinated drinks and other diuretics work against keeping hydrated).
- Warm drinks: Especially non-caffeinated tea or even sipping warm broth can help break up the thick mucus and ease swelling.
- Steam: Try safely steaming the face or taking a hot shower to encourage the sinuses to drain.
- Warm compress on the face: This also encourages sinus drainage
- Sinus rinsing: Rinsing with sterile irrigation can provide rapid relief. Try using a nasal spray, neti pot, or another nasal irrigation system.
- Humidifier: Breathing air with more humidity can help relieve the discomfort of a sinus infection.
- Elevate: Sleep with your head slightly elevated to encourage the sinuses to drain and relieve pressure.
- Avoid blowing your nose: Having a sinus infection often feels like it could be relieved by blowing your nose, but it is discouraged by many medical experts who believe it could actually make the infection worse.
- Sprays: Decongestant nasal sprays are also available. Be advised not to overuse these sprays if you choose to try this treatment.
Treatment From Your Doctor
If the at-home remedies listed above still leave you struggling with a painful sinus toothache, consult your doctor about these additional treatments:
- Prescription for a decongestant, mucus-thinning, or steroid nasal spray medication.
- Allergy medication can relieve a sinus infection.
- Antibiotic prescription if your doctor suspects a bacterial infection.
Your Dental Questions Answered
We hope this article has provided you with helpful information to determine whether a toothache is cause a visit to the dentist, or simply a symptom of a sinus infection that will resolve on its own. At Durango Dental, we are focused and committed to giving you the best care for all your dental needs. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment or for more information about sinus-related toothaches.