You may not realize how closely associated your teeth and sinuses are related. There is only a very thin layer of bone that actually separates the roots of the upper teeth and the facial sinuses. This is why your teeth may ache when you are experiencing a sinus cold or infection.
Likewise, many times an upper tooth issue will cause tenderness in the sinuses. Because of their close proximity to one another, it can be difficult to distinguish where the discomfort is coming from.
Sinusitis vs Toothache
Sinus are air-filled cavities that can become inflamed, congested, or irritated during a bout with the common cold, allergies, flu or upper respiratory tract infection. When these cavities fill up with infection and mucus, drainage can become poor, causing swelling of sinus tissues.
This inflammation can exert pressure on the nerves that enter into the tooth through their roots causing the tooth to ache and/or throb. Most times, however, sinusitis exhibits very obvious symptoms like cold symptoms, discolored mucus, post-nasal drip, and phlegmy cough.
Typically, sinus pain occurs over a broader area and is bilateral – both sides of the nose – and produces pain that is more tender rather than a throbbing ache.
“Severe sinus inflammation has been known to even cause enough swelling to alter the position of nearby teeth throwing off the dental bite!”
When a tooth has infection, bacterial pus can buildup and drain out a hole at the end of the root/s. This infection collects as a pocket of pus ay the root end and this accumulation or any resulting swelling is relative to the tooth location and can press upon the floor of the sinuses causing sinus pain.
Usually, but not always, the pain from a tooth abscess is constant, sharp, centralized and increases in intensity as the infection grows. Hot and cold foods cause lingering pain and a white pimple may appear on the surface of the gum tissue near the end of the root of the tooth where the infection is trying to drain.
Although a dental x-ray will usually determine the health of a tooth, when it comes to the tooth/sinus relationship, diagnosing may be difficult without any obvious radiographic or clinical signs.
Sinusitis and tooth infection also share some of the same symptoms:
Over the years, we have had patients come to see us complaining of a toothache and have been able to rule out that their mouth is not the basis of their discomfort. We then advise them to see their family physician for further examination. Sometimes, its the other way around and a medical doctor will recommend that a patient visit their dentist if they suspect that the pain is dental related.
It becomes tricky when the discomfort a patient is experiencing is more vague, like at the beginning of sinus or tooth infection or when the lower teeth are affected by what we call “referred pain” – when pain in one part of your mouth is experienced in another spot. It can be frustrating when symptoms like a toothache is obvious to a patient, but their dentist, equipped with diagnostic tools and experience, cannot determine the underling cause with certainty.
Additionally, a patient must appreciate that, dental care traditionally involves being able to make a diagnosis with certainty before treatment intervention. Of course, no one likes to take the wait and see approach, especially if they think the condition will spread.
Dental infection may show up on an x-ray even before a patient feels pain or may not make a definite appearance until it is at a certain point in it’s development. Your dentist may be confident that it is safe to monitor the situation or recommend that you see a dental specialist for further assessment.
Whether you suffering from a toothache, suspect that you have a more serious dental health problem or think it’s time for a dental check-up and cleaning, our friendly staff at Your Smile Dental Care offer years of experience and personalized advice for your “specific to you” dental concern. We welcome new patients of all ages at 2 convenient locations: Oshawa (905) 576-4537 and Toronto (416) 783-3533.