Is it a sinus problem or a toothache?


As the seasons change and fall approaches, so do allergies and sinus problems. Sometimes when we develop sinus pressure or a sinus infection it is accompanied by a sudden toothache. It can be hard to tell if we are having a toothache or if it is a symptom of the sinus issue. Symptoms of sinus infections or sinusitis include facial pressure or pain when making sudden movements, stuffiness, runny nose, congestion, and for some people a toothache. Some acute sinusitis cases are also accompanied by fever and fatigue.

The sinus is an air cavity with a balloon-like membrane. The maxillary sinus sits behind the cheekbones and the roots of the back upper teeth lay very close to this sinus membrane. If there is inflammation or drainage in the sinus, it can put pressure on the nerves in the roots of these teeth. This is why sinus infections can mimic toothaches. The symptoms associated with this usually improve when the sinusitis is treated or self resolves.

But what should you do if you are not sure if you have a sinus infection or a toothache? It can be difficult to distinguish. Check with your dentist so that they can examine the teeth in the area of pain to see if the issue is tooth-related. If the tooth is the cause of pain, it needs to be treated by your dentist. If the tooth is not the cause, it is important to be evaluated by your physician to see if the pain is sinus-related so that you can be appropriately treated.

Jacobsen, P. L., & Casagrande, A. M. (2003). Sinusitis as a source of
dental pain. Dentistry today, 22(9), 110–113.

Sarah Schuback, D.M.D

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