The short answer is yes, but distinguishing between the 2 can be tricky. Your dentist will be able to perform certain tests and take certain x-rays to determine if it is indeed a tooth causing your pain or a sinus problem mimicking tooth pain.
What are sinuses? Sinuses are interconnected spaces in the skull that all lead to the nasal passageways. Their job is to filter, moisten, and warm the air that you breath in. The largest sinuses in your head are a pair of sinuses called the Maxillary Sinuses. They are located just above your upper back teeth. In fact, the roots of the upper molars can often extend into the maxillary sinuses.
This means that whenever the sinuses are inflamed from infection (sinusitis/sinus infection) or seasonal allergies for example, the roots of the upper back teeth can be affected, resulting in tooth pain.
The opposite can be true as well. In the event that you have an infected upper molar, you can even develop a sinus infection that originates from the tooth. This further emphasizes the ambiguous relationship between the teeth and sinuses.
Although it is difficult to differentiate between tooth and sinus pain, there are some unique signs that point towards an issue in the sinuses:
- Sinus pain typically affects the upper molars. If your toothache is coming from a bottom tooth, then the sinuses are an unlikely cause.
- Usually more than 1 tooth on that side hurts and it can’t be narrowed down to a single tooth. Pain originating from a tooth is usually more intense and specific to 1 tooth.
- Sinus pain is often worse when you bend over, jump/stomp your feet, and lie down. Tooth pain on the other hand, is usually not affected by positional changes.
- Pressure around your cheek, eye, forehead, and nose.
- Mucous discharge that is thick and discolored. Nasal drip with a bad taste.
- Pain and a feeling of “fullness” in the ears.
- Altered sense of taste and smell.
- Runny or blocked nose.
If you have pain in your teeth, it is very important that you see your dentist as soon as possible for evaluation. Your dentist will be able to determine if the pain you are feeling is really from the teeth (cavities, gum disease, etc.) or from something else. If your dentist rules out teeth as the cause of pain, he/she may refer you to a physician for further evaluation.
If you can’t make it to your dentist and/or physician right away, these home therapies may provide some relief for tooth pain caused by sinus inflammation and pressure:
- Use saline to flush sinuses (Nasal Lavage).
- Drink a lot of water. Adequate hydration thins out mucous and allows for better drainage of the sinuses.
- Use air humidifier and make sure your head is tilted on your pillow when you sleep.
- Over-the-Counter Decongestants/Expectorants (i.e., Pseudoephedrine)
- Eat spicy food (if you can tolerate it).
- Your dentist or physician may prescribe you additional medications such as antibiotics, stronger decongestants, allergy medication, pain relievers, nasal steroid spray, etc.
If you have questions, if you are experiencing dental pain, or if you are overdue for a dental check-up, please schedule an appointment today!