Sinus Issues and Tooth Pain

Sinus Issues and Tooth Pain

If you have a toothache or even several painful teeth, you might assume you have a a cavity, abscess, or other dental problem. However, the cause of your pain may not be due to your teeth at all.  Many of our patients experience tooth pain, particularly upper molars when they have a sinus infection.

The reason for this pain is that the roots of your upper teeth are sitting right next to your sinuses. The sinuses are a network of hollow cavities within the skull, located behind the eyes, nose and cheek bones. Their primary function is to warm, moisten and filter the air passing through the nasal cavity. When your sinuses are healthy, they’re lined with just a thin layer of mucus that drains away continuously. Your body is able to keep your sinuses clean. When the sinuses become inflamed, causing swelling and an increase in mucus production. This is known as a sinus infection (sinusitis). The underlying cause may be an allergy, pollutant or tissue irritant, the common cold, sinus polyps, an anatomical obstruction in the nasal passage that spread to the sinuses. Once mucus builds up, the sinuses become blocked, trapping bacteria that continue to multiply inside. Airflow into the nasal cavity and drainage of mucus out of the nasal cavity is restricted, creating pressure and subsequent pain in the sinuses.

The sinus cavity most commonly affected by congestion and pressure are the maxillary sinuses, which are located on both sides of your nose. Very often, the roots of the upper molars and premolars (the top row of teeth) lie very close to the maxillary sinuses. When the maxillary sinuses become inflamed or infected, the swelling can be so great that the walls of the sinus cavity can begin to press against the adjacent roots of the upper back teeth and over the upper jaw bones. This pressure can often lead severe tooth pain  that mimics the symptoms of pain associated with normal dental problem. The intensity of tooth pain varies, depending on the extent of the sinus infection and swelling, along with the proximity of the root endings to the infected sinus. If the pain persists more than a couple of days, it can seem to travel to the lower teeth of the affected side.

If you have any concerns, we welcome you to come see us – a simple radiograph (xray) will help us to determine if you are having an actual tooth problem.  If your issues are in fact sinus related, your medical doctor will be able to help, usually by prescribing antibiotics.