Sniffing out the Cause of Toothache: How to Tell a Sinus Toothache Apart from a Dental Toothache

Dentist Blog

If you have ever had a toothache that coincided with a bad case of sinusitis, then you were probably experiencing a sinus toothache--not a dental toothache. Chronic sinusitis, a condition that can last as long as 12-weeks, has been shown to have a more negative impact on the quality of a sufferer's life than conditions such as angina and congestive heart failure. One common issue experienced by sufferers is toothache. This can lead to misdiagnosis.

Upper Molar Roots are Close to the Maxillary Sinuses

The human skull contains 4 sinuses, each one responsible for cleaning the air that you breathe in. The maxillary sinus, which sits behind the cheekbones, just above the roots of your back teeth (molars), also reduces the weight of your skull and creates resonance for your voice when you speak.

Unfortunately for people that often come down with sinus infections, because the roots of their molars are in such close proximity to their maxillary sinuses, toothache often accompanies a sinus infection. Sinus toothaches and dental toothaches are similar but there are some important differences.

Movement Pain is an Indicator of a Sinus Toothache

Since sinus infection pain is more pressure-based, your posture can affect its intensity. Therefore, pain that worsens when you move your head up and down, or when you go up and down the stairs, is due to pressure changes and is therefore sinus-related. To identify a sinus toothache, try crouching, then standing up quickly. If the pain in your upper teeth intensifies, your toothache is sinus-related.

Your Nose is Congested on the Same Side as the Toothache

If fluid has built up inside a sinus, causing the sinus membranes to become inflamed, the toothache will be present on the side that is most congested. Try a nasal spray that contains ephedrine or take a decongestant to relieve the pain.

The Toothache is Present with Other Common Symptoms

When a toothache accompanies common sinus infection symptoms such as headaches, face-fullness, nasal discharge, and a heavy, lethargic feeling, it is likely caused by a sinus infection. Of course, you still need to verify this by checking both your teeth and your sinuses. Otherwise, you may end up booking a dental appointment when what you really need is a doctor's appointment.

Sinus Toothache Affects Several Teeth at Once

Where sinus toothache is concerned, the pain is rarely present in just one tooth. It is most common for the pain to affect several teeth at the same time. The teeth most commonly affected by sinus toothache are the upper premolars and molars. While the pain is similar in nature to a normal toothache, i.e. a dull, constant throbbing, dental toothache generally affects one tooth.

Book a Dental Appointment Just to be Sure

Although it is rare for a sinus infection and a tooth infection to occur simultaneously, it does happen. If after examining your tooth and checking for the aforementioned symptoms you are still unsure about the nature of your toothache, book a dental appointment. A dentist can ascertain whether a sinus is infected by taking an x-ray of the area.

When a sinus is infected, it appears white when viewed via x-ray due to the build-up of fluid in the cavity. A healthy sinus on the other hand, should be black. Your dentist will also perform a series of tests on your teeth to determine if they react to stimulation. An infected tooth should react to heat and cold as well as percussion.

Don't take any chances with a toothache. Seek the expert opinion of a doctor or dentist. If the problem is sinus-related, the toothache may not subside until the sinus infection has been dealt with using antibiotics, decongestants, and anti-histamines. If the issue is dental, your tooth probably needs a root canal to treat and remove the infected nerve.   


18 September 2017

Teeth And Tears: Dental Dramas Of A School Nurse

I have worked as a school nurse for decades. Children come to me with all sorts of scrapes and bumps and bruises. Black eyes from playing football, sprained wrists from falling off the monkey bars and stomachaches from too many sweets are common complaints. However, the issue that seems to cause the greatest angst is tooth problems. Sometimes a child will have a second tooth knocked out when playing sport and parents arrive in tears. At other times, children come to my office crying because their friends are teasing them about teeth that are discoloured or stick out. I take an active interest in the latest dental news so that I can give parents and children comfort and advice. I have included some of my collected wisdom on these pages. Perhaps this information can help you understand some options when faced with a dental problem. Thank you for reading.