Both a sinus infection or sinus inflammation (known as sinusitis), can lead to a toothache. Sinusitis occurs when the tissue lining the sinuses becomes inflamed and swollen.
Tooth pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. It can be caused by sinus pressure and by drainage from sinus infections. The pain is usually felt in the upper rear teeth that are closest to the sinuses.
The sinuses are four pairs of air-filled spaces found in the facial bones near your eyes, forehead, and behind your cheekbones. They warm, moisten, and filter the air in your nasal cavity. Sinuses also produce mucus, which drains into the nasal cavity and cleans the nose. When these air-filled areas become blocked by fluid, infection is possible.
The congestion and pressure that accompany a sinus infection can cause discomfort or pain in your upper teeth. This is because the roots of your upper teeth and jawbone are near your sinuses. Sometimes, this is what’s known as referred pain, the discomfort spreads to your lower teeth as well.
Many symptoms of a regular toothache are similar to those of a sinus toothache. However, sinus tooth pain is primarily felt in the upper molars, affecting several teeth instead of only one. If you’re having pain in these teeth, and it’s coupled with some of the symptoms listed below, it’s likely that your toothache is due to a sinus infection. You may also feel a bit under the weather (low in energy) or have a fever.
A toothache caused by dental concerns will likely be the only source of pain, and it could be more intense and focused. Pain from a sinus toothache will intensify with certain types of movement. Jumping up or bending over may make the pain worse. This is because the sinus pressure shifts as you move and is felt more in your teeth. The pain may subside when you’re sitting or lying down.
Often sinusitis begins as a regular viral cold and turns into a superimposed bacterial infection. Other primary causes include allergies, bacterial or fungal infections, and changes in temperature or air pressure. Chemical irritants, asthma, and low immunity also increase the risk for having sinusitis.
Often, the symptoms of a sinus infection are similar to cold and nasal allergy symptoms. You may have head congestion, a runny or stuffy nose, or a cough. Inflammation and swelling can cause sinus blockage and pressure, leading to facial pain.
Additional symptoms of a sinus infection include:
- pressure or tenderness around your nose, eyes, or forehead
- thick, discolored mucus
- bad-tasting nasal drip
- ear fullness or pain
- loss of smell and taste
- sore throat
- hoarse voice
There are lots of treatment options for a sinus infection. It’s important that you treat symptoms as quickly as possible. You can start with a few of these home remedies and move on to a traditional treatment if you don’t see results. Here are a few options.
Drinking plenty of water is key to relieving sinus congestion. Make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting plenty of liquids. This helps to thin mucus and reduce pressure and blockages in your sinuses. Hot liquids such as soup and tea may be especially soothing.
Breathing in hot, moist air can help to open your nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure. Simply pour boiling water into a large bowl. Position your face above the water, cover your head with a towel, and inhale deeply for a few minutes. You can also take a hot steam shower twice a day.
Rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution can help to moisturize your sinuses while clearing away allergens and discharge.
Limit decongestant nasal sprays
While decongestant nasal sprays can be a good option for treating sinus congestion short-term, overuse can diminish the benefits. This can lead to rebound congestion instead of preventing it, and over time, you may develop a tolerance.
If home remedies aren’t effective, prescription medication is an option. This may include a decongestant, steroid nasal spray, or mucus-thinning medicine. Allergy-relieving medications may also be recommended.
Antibiotics for sinusitis should only be used if other treatment methods are ineffective and bacterial infection is suspected. Your doctor will likely make sure you’ve tried other options before prescribing antibiotics. Structural issues may require surgery.
There are a few ways to treat a toothache before going to a dentist. Try:
- OTC pain relievers. You can treat minor toothache pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or aspirin. Topical numbing pastes or gels containing benzocaine (Anbesol, Orajel) can also be used for pain relief. Products containing benzocaine should not be used in children under age 2.
- Hot and cold therapy. Alternate between using a heating pad or cold compress on the affected area for 15 minutes at a time. Do this a few times throughout the day.
- Saltwater rinse. Doing a saltwater rinse can help to relieve inflammation and treat oral wounds. Rinse your mouth with this solution for 30 seconds at a time, several times per day.
See your dentist if you have a persistent toothache that:
- lasts for some time
- doesn’t go away after your sinus infection is gone
- causes you severe discomfort
Your dentist can determine whether it’s being caused by periodontal disease, cavities, or dental abscesses. Grinding your teeth could also be a cause.
See your doctor if your dentist doesn’t find a dental cause for your toothache. They can assess whether a sinus condition or another medical condition is the cause.
Likewise, see your doctor if your sinus infection doesn’t get better after treatment or if any of your symptoms are painful or severe. It’s important to get it checked out since sinusitis can also be caused by structural issues, such as narrow drainage passages, tumors, or a shifted nasal septum.
Sinus infections can cause several symptoms, including toothaches, especially in the upper rear teeth. Though this can cause discomfort, both issues are fairly simple to resolve. Once you treat your sinus infection, your tooth pain should go away.
Usually, symptoms will improve or clear within a week or two. Talk to your doctor if your sinus congestion or infection persists after treatment or if any of your symptoms worsen.