A sharp or throbbing pain shoots out from the side of your mouth. You clamp your hand over it to try and alleviate the tooth pain with some sort of pressure, but it just doesn’t go away. Unfortunately, this horrible feeling affects millions of people each year and will probably happen to all of us at least once in our lives. But did you know that this pain can be attributed to more than one source?
Facial pain such as this is a common symptom of both a toothache and sinus pressure. While both have fairly similar symptoms, it is important to be able to spot the difference between sinus pain and a toothache as well as how they should be treated. After all, knowing whether you need to go to the doctor for sinus infection treatment or to the dentist for a potential root canal is an important distinction to make. Read on to learn how to identify the difference between the two.

Can Toothaches and Sinus Pressure be Linked?

A sinus-related toothache is actually incredibly normal, as tooth pain caused by sinus issues is a common issue. The roots of your upper back teeth often extend toward or even into your sinuses and inflammation of the sinuses can cause you to experience a sinus toothache.
Sinus tooth pain may also be due to a tooth infection. This could be a chronic issue, and you will need to see a dentist to be properly diagnosed.

Looking at Sinus Pressure

Dreaded by people with allergies, asthma, and weak immune systems everywhere, sinus infections, or sinusitis, are major health problems that often occur at the start of a new season. A sinus infection is often caused by a bacterial or viral infection that prevents the sinuses from being able to produce mucus normally. These infections, and in some cases allergens, cause nasal tissues to swell and trap mucus in the sinus cavities, which then creates sinus pressure.
This sinus pressure often presents itself with symptoms such as postnasal drip, fever, fatigue, facial tenderness, and of course, tooth pain. People with a sinus infection often experience pain in the back of the upper teeth and upper molars.

Understanding Your Sinuses

Your sinuses are air-filled spaces found in your skull that are connected to your nasal cavity. They are lined with a thin layer of mucus. Your sinuses allow air to flow between each sinus cavity and contain small hairs that guide mucus to drain easily.
There are four sets of interconnected sinus cavities located within your skull.

  1. Maxillary sinuses: The largest at about an inch across. The maxillary sinus is located right above your upper back teeth within your cheekbones.
  2. Frontal sinuses: The frontal sinus varies in size and is rarely symmetric. It is located in the center of your forehead, above your eyes.
  3. Ethmoid sinuses: They vary in both size and number. Ethmoid sinuses are located between your eyes.
  4. Sphenoid sinuses: The smallest at about 1.3 cm across. It is located in the bones behind your nose

Common Sinus Infection Symptoms

Common symptoms of sinus inflammation include:

  • Sore throat, hoarse voice
  • Sinus congestion
  • Runny nose, typically discolored
  • Mucus drainage down the throat
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Pain around the sinus areas: eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead
  • Pain within the upper teeth, or referred pain that spreads to the lower teeth

Acute sinusitis is the most common type of sinus infection a person may encounter. Cases typically resolve themselves within 10 days
If your sinus infection lasts for 3 months or longer, even with professional treatment, you may be experiencing chronic sinus infections.

Ways to Get Relief

To relieve the pain, it is important that you treat sinusitis as soon as you notice it occurring. Besides general over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil, there are numerous ways that you can relieve sinus pressure.
Depending on your sinus infection, your doctor may recommend a variety of different treatments including:

  • Nasal spray, in which you would spray a saline solution into your nose a few times a day to flush out the sinus cavity.
  • Allergy medications, if your sinus infection is caused by allergies.
  • Nasal corticosteroids may be prescribed to prevent inflammation.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if your doctor believes your sinus infection is due to a bacterial illness.

Many people prefer to try home remedies before going to the doctor for medication. These are some of the most common:

  • Steam breathing, in which you sit in a hot shower or breath in from a steaming bowl of water, helps to open the sinuses.
  • Humidifiers work much like steam breathing, as they help to open the sinuses. Follow the care and cleaning instructions to prevent a build-up of bacteria.
  • Place a warm, wet towel over your face.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to thin the mucus and help it drain.

Let’s Talk Toothaches

Toothaches are pain or inflammation within or surrounding a tooth. Toothaches can present themselves as throbbing, sharp pains, or even tenderness. While often easy to brush off as a normal occurrence, tooth pain does not occur for no reason. It could be a sign of something serious.

Common Causes

Toothaches are commonly caused by dental problems, such as tooth decay, gum disease, or other dental infections. Tooth pain caused by a dental infection should be taken care of immediately, as infections that are left alone may grow to become a further problem.
However, dental pain is not always caused by something serious. Something as simple as biting into something too hard or getting a piece of food stuck between your teeth can cause a toothache.

How to Treat a Toothache

There are multiple ways to treat your tooth pain that does not require over-the-counter medication.

  • A saltwater rinse has anti-inflammatory and bacteria-killing properties that will provide some relief to your toothache.
  • Apply a cold compress to your face for a few minutes at a time. Never use a hot compress, as it may further inflame the affected area.
  • Brew yourself a few peppermint tea bags. These contain menthol, which has natural numbing properties that may help reduce pain.
  • Brush and floss regularly to clean bacteria from your mouth and remove any stubborn food particles that may be causing you irritation.

If tooth pain continues to persist even after treatment, we suggest seeing a dentist immediately.

How to Tell the Difference Between the Two

Due to overlapping symptoms and affected areas, it may be difficult to determine the difference between tooth pain and sinus pain.
Luckily, you can easily determine the difference between a regular toothache and one caused by sinus infections by simply looking closely at what type of pain you’re feeling. If you are feeling a constant ache, you are most likely experiencing sinus tooth pain due to the constant pressure your sinuses are under. If the pain flows in and out, it’s probably a toothache.
You can also look at where you’re hurting. If you feel pain behind your cheekbones and in several teeth, you’re probably experiencing sinus pressure. A toothache will seldom spread to more than one tooth. If you are experiencing a toothache in multiple teeth, it could be a sign of gum disease.

When Should You Get a Doctor Involved?

For sinus pain that lasts more than just a few days or causes you to be unable to complete your regular tasks, visit a doctor immediately.
If you notice persistent dental issues, swollen gums, or smelly discharge coming from your mouth, we recommend you schedule an appointment with a qualified dentist. At Tree City Family Dental we will uncover the underlying problems causing your dental pain and expertly create a care routine or suggest a procedure that will fix your pain. Schedule your appointment today!