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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 cold cause most sinus infections, sinusitis can lead to an intense toothache.


Here we’ll cover the following commonly asked questions including:

How can I be sure my toothache is actually a sinus infection?

How can you relieve sinus pressure within your teeth?

Is it okay to go to the dentist with a sinus infection?

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 essential 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 incredibly 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 any discomfort, 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 reveal 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. A great, easy 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 familiar 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.

Can wisdom teeth affect your sinuses?

Impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on the sinuses, causing pain and congestion to develop. If an infection is present, it can spread to the sinuses.

How do you relieve sinus pressure in your teeth?

Drinking plenty of water is key to relieving sinus congestion. Breathing in hot, moist air can help to open your nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure. Rinsing your sinuses with a saline solution can help to moisturize your sinuses while clearing away allergens and discharge. If home remedies aren’t effective, prescription medications such as a Zpak is an option.

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.

What does a sinus-toothache feel like?

While everyone’s experience may be different, a toothache that is generated from the sinus area often tends to be an intense pain or a throbbing sensation because of the amount of pressure that is being put on the nerves of the teeth.

How can I be sure my toothache is actually a sinus infection?

If you feel pain on both sides of your face, then it is likely that you are probably experiencing a sinus infection. If you can press directly on a tooth and do not experience a direct, immediate sensation of pain, then the pain you are experiencing is most likely related to your sinuses.

Can sinus infection make front teeth hurt?

Although it isn’t impossible, a sinus infection typically doesn’t cause pain in the front teeth. Maxillary sinuses, sinuses located in the cheek area on both sides of the nose, are located near the roots of your back, upper teeth. Therefore, if these sinuses become inflamed, it is likely that they you will experience referred pain to your upper back teeth.

How can you relieve sinus pressure within your teeth?

  • Use steam and be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Water helps thin mucus, which can be helpful.
  • Try eating spicy foods.
  • Use a medication that has an expectorant. Do make sure all medications are safe for you if you have any underlying health conditions.
  • Position your head so that you sinuses can drain-typically an upright or semi-reclined position is best.

Can sinus tooth pain come and go?

When inflamed, sinuses can cause a variety of symptoms including toothaches, especially in the back, upper teeth and is, on average, easy to resolve. After the sinus infection is treated, tooth pain should resolve. Generally, symptoms will improve within one to two weeks.

Is it okay to go to the dentist with a sinus infection?

The short answer is , yes. It is possible that a fever and runny nose are actually from an infection in your mouth. If you have pressure above your upper teeth or are having problem breathing as a result of inflamed oral tissue, do call your dentist.

Do tooth roots go up into sinuses?

The roots of upper teeth are in extremely close proximity to the lining of your sinuses and sinus cavities (maxillary sinuses). In some cases, the root can poke through, and extend into the floor of the sinus cavity.

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