Sinus tooth pain can be a very uncomfortable experience. The pain is usually felt on one side of the face, and can range from a dull ache to a sharp, throbbing pain, and can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, pressure, congestion, and a runny nose.
The sinuses are a set of paired empty spaces in the skull that are linked to the nasal cavity. When someone has sinusitis (sinus infection), the tissues in these spaces become inflamed, which can result in pain.
The largest sinuses are situated above the rear teeth in the upper jaw, and the roots of these teeth can be very close or even reach into the sinus cavity. This proximity means that inflammation in the sinuses may cause pain in the nearby teeth. Additionally, tooth damage or infection can also lead to chronic sinusitis.
If you’re experiencing a toothache in the upper jaw, it is advisable to see a dentist for an examination and prompt treatment.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about sinus tooth pain:
While there are several sinuses in your head, only the maxillary sinuses, which are located on either side of your nose, can be affected by tooth-related issues. Owing to the close proximity between the maxillary sinuses and the roots of your upper back teeth, abscesses from the latter can spread to your maxillary sinuses, causing an infection with symptoms similar to sinusitis.
Your maxillary sinuses are linked to the oral cavity and the roots of your upper teeth by a U-shaped process referred to as the alveolar process, through which any dental infections extend to the maxillary sinuses.
Poor oral hygiene is the main cause of bacteria buildup in your teeth and gum area, which increases the risk of bacteria entering your sinuses. If you have a serious dental disorder, an infection can originate from below the gum line, and if left untreated, the bacteria can make their way into the maxillary sinuses cavity resulting in a severe sinus infection and excruciating sinus tooth pain.
Causes of sinus tooth pain
- Sinus infection (sinusitis): A sinus infection can cause inflammation and pressure in the sinuses, which can lead to tooth pain.
- Tooth infection in the upper jaw: An infected tooth can cause pain that is felt in the sinuses.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: TMJ disorder can cause pain in the jaw, which can be felt in the sinuses and teeth.
- Bruxism: Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can cause tooth pain and sensitivity, which can be felt in the sinuses.
Symptoms of sinus tooth pain
Although toothaches are generally caused by issues with your teeth, it is important to note that the parts adjacent to your teeth, such as the maxillary sinuses, can mimic a toothache. Toothache can be a symptom of an acute sinus infection. However, a dental infection can also turn into a sinus infection.
A sinus-related toothache can only affect the upper back teeth or molars, and is often accompanied by:
- A runny nose
- Facial swelling
- Swollen gums
- Tenderness in the cheekbone
- Burning headache
If left untreated, a sinus infection can lead to more serious conditions, such as an eye infection, bone infection, or brain infection. So, seek dental advice before treating any sort of dental pain to avoid such complications.
Diagnosis of sinus tooth pain
Diagnosing the cause of sinus tooth pain can be a complex process that requires a thorough examination by a dentist or physician. This may include:
- Physical examination: The dentist or physician will conduct a physical examination of the mouth, teeth, and sinuses to look for signs of inflammation, infection, or damage.
- Dental X-rays: Dental X-rays can help detect any dental issues that may be causing the tooth pain, such as a cavity or tooth abscess.
- Sinus imaging: Imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, may be used to evaluate the sinuses and detect any inflammation or infection.
- Allergy testing: If allergies are suspected to be the cause of sinus tooth pain, allergy testing may be performed to identify any allergens that may be triggering symptoms.
- Culture and sensitivity testing: If a bacterial infection is suspected, a sample of the affected area may be taken for culture and sensitivity testing to determine the type of bacteria present and which antibiotics will be effective.
- Referral to a specialist: In some cases, the dentist or physician may refer the patient to a specialist, such as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor or an allergist, for further evaluation and treatment.
It is important to provide the dentist or physician with a detailed medical history, including any allergies or underlying medical conditions, as this can help with the diagnosis and treatment of sinus tooth pain. Additionally, if the pain is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.
Home remedies for sinus tooth pain
If your case of sinus tooth pain is not severe, your dentist or doctor may recommend the following remedies for pain relief at home:
- Drink plenty of fluids: Dental professionals recommend drinking water to help thin mucus, making it easier to manage. Consider adding coconut water, which contains electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium, to your diet. Magnesium supports the immune system, which helps to combat bacterial and viral sinus infections.
- Use steam: You can alleviate sinus congestion and pain by taking a steamy shower or using a peppermint steam solution. Peppermint and steam are both effective in managing congestion and pain. Sipping hot tea can also help.
- Over-the-counter pain medication: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
- Warm compress: Applying a warm compress to the affected area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
- Eat spicy foods: If you have a sensitive palate, you can still consume foods that have a spicy kick like horseradish or chilli peppers. These ingredients are known to have properties that can help thin mucus and provide immediate relief. However, it is important to note that not all spicy foods are equally effective, so it is best to consult with your doctor before consuming them to ensure that they are not causing more harm than good.
- Nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation can help relieve congestion and reduce inflammation in the sinuses.
- Antibiotics: If the cause of the sinus tooth pain is a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.
When to see a dentist
It is important to consult with a dentist or physician if you experience severe or ongoing sinus tooth pain, fever, or facial pain that prevents you from eating and drinking normally, as it may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.
If the cause of the tooth pain is a dental issue, such as an infected tooth, dental treatment may be necessary. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to widen the sinus passages if your case of chronic sinusitis is affecting your breathing and quality of life.