Sinusitis and Toothache 101

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Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

Can Sinusitis Cause Toothache?

sinus pain and toothache emergency dental care lincoln ne

During this time of the year, sinusitis and toothache often go hand-in-hand. Sinuses are the chambers in our head that humidify the air we breathe. Most of the time, our bodies can keep our sinuses clean and healthy. However, bacteria thrive in the dark, moist environments, so our sinuses are the perfect candidates for bacterial growth. While most sinus infections are caused by colds, sinusitis can lead to an intense toothache.

Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

What are the major sinuses and where are they located?

Sinusitis and Toothache doctor

We have a few different sinuses, and all of them are located in a facial area. The diagram below will give you a better idea of where the sinuses are located and the difference between healthy and infected sinuses.

Just beneath the lower sinuses, the roots of our upper teeth come into close contact with what are called our “maxillary sinuses.” These are the sinuses that can be affected by toothaches.

Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

Can Sinusitis Cause Toothache?

woman experiencing toothache

According to, Hupp’s Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery textbook, “ Dental Infection from top back teeth can affect maxillary sinuses directly, leading to the symptoms of  sinusitis.”

Approximately 20% of cases of maxillary sinusitis are odontogenic.” 

In other words, abscesses of the upper back teeth can eat through the bone can invade the maxillary sinus, leading to  1 out of every 5 cases of maxillary sinus infections causing a toothache. For more information and tips on how to prevent toothaches, check out our guide here.

Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

Can Tooth Infection Lead to Sinus Infection?

A Case of an Abscess Close to the Sinuses.  The following is an x-ray of a tooth that previously had a root canal was done and a crown put in. Looking closely, you can see that the infection never fully healed at the roots.

sinusitis toothache for emergency dental care lincon ne

The sinus has been colored blue, and the tooth infection has been colored red. In this case, the infection and the sinuses do seem to overlap.  The presence of a dental infection doesn’t necessarily mean that it can spread into the sinus or caused a sinus infection. The x-ray is only a snapshot of the area from the front perspective, so it’s possible that the abscess is in front of or behind the sinuses.

On the other hand, the x-ray does tell us how close the maxillary sinus is to the upper teeth, and it is important to note that there is only a thin membrane between the roots of the upper teeth and the sinus, so it is very easy for an infection to travel into the sinuses. Thankfully, while the person in this x-ray likely had a severe toothache, they did not exhibit any signs of a sinus infection.

It’s extremely uncommon for patients to develop toothaches as a result of sinusitis. With that being said, we do see these cases a few times each year. Luckily, these toothaches can be fixed without extensive dental care. In other cases, if you have a toothache you should see your dentist immediately.

The Problem with Toothaches

If you have an achy tooth, the problem is likely much bigger than a simple cavity. Cavities won’t hurt, so if you’re experiencing pain, it’s probably something else. In all likelihood, toothaches are caused by the travel of decay down to the root. If this is the case, we’ll perform a quick root canal, and you’ll be back to normal. In any case, be sure to come in and see your dentist. There, they’ll be able to take a look at your tooth and figure out what’s going on that’s causing your toothache.

Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

A Case of Sinusitis Caused by a Toothache

Sinus Infection Toothache and Tooth pain

The following shows a person with chronic sinusitis caused by a metal post that was put into one of the upper back teeth. The x-rays show that the metal post pierced through the edge of the teeth, protruding slightly into the bone. The result was an abscess that leaked into the nearby sinus.

Due to the fracture in the tooth caused by the metal post, the tooth pictured was extracted. It was reported that during the extraction the bottom part of the tooth broke off and be pushed into the sinuses. In the process of retrieving the root fragment, the sinus was opened up, and the infection removed.

Sinusitis and Toothache 101:

What can you do to prevent sinusitis and toothache

When the air is dry, it’s important to keep our nasal passages moist. The best and easiest way to do this is to sniff a saline solution into nose 2-4 times a day.  Drug stores also sell pre-made nasal saline products such as Ocean, Simply Saline, or other generic equivalents. These solutions are used to wash away mucus from the nasal passages by shrinking any parts of the membrane that are swollen. Otherwise, mucus and the swollen membranes may block the openings of the sinuses into the nasal passages.

Sinusitis can then occur if nasal bacteria infects the mucus. When this happens, the mucus can no longer drain from the blocked sinus. Rather than having to treat sinus infections with antibiotics, you can prevent them by keeping these nasal passages moist.

Sinusitis and Toothache diagram

Frequently Asked Questions about Sinusitis and Toothache

Can a sinus infection cause a toothache?

Yes, a sinus infection can cause a toothache. While it may seem strange, sinusitis and toothache are actually a somewhat common combination. You can develop a toothache from a sinus infection. Because the maxillary sinuses rest just above the upper back molars, sinusitis often causes these teeth to hurt.

How long does a sinus toothache last?

How long a sinus toothache lasts depends on a variety of factors. However, sinus toothaches can last anywhere from a single day to a couple of weeks. If you do have a sinus toothache, seeing your dentist can help significantly. For Lincoln, Nebraska residents, you can schedule today with any of our locations using the form at the bottom.

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