Toothache or sinus problem?

As winter temperatures settle into the Hutchinson area, so does the prevalence of sinus problems or Sinusitis.  One of the symptoms of a sinusitis is a toothache. In most instances, these perceived toothaches involve the back teeth.  Common tooth symptoms of sinusitis include temperature sensitivity and pain experienced when walking or jumping.  Other sinusitis symptoms include pressure, facial pain, headache, stuffy or runny nose, loss of smell, cough, and congestion.  If the sinusitis is acute, you may also experience a fever, bad breath, and fatigue.  An acute sinusitis may last several weeks while a chronic sinusitis may last a few months.

Why does sinusitis cause toothaches? The floor of the sinuses practically lays across the roots of your upper back teeth. So if you think about any inflammation or pressure building up in those sinus spaces, that pressure will be put on the root tips. The nerves of your teeth exit out those root tips and pressure on those nerves can cause your teeth to become hypersensitive and painful. This is how sinus infections can cause toothaches that really aren’t tooth in origin.

A sinusitis is caused by blockage of sinus cavities due to inflammation of the sinus linings.  If blockage occurs, the normally air filled sinus cavities become filled with fluid which then allows bacteria to grow causing an infection.  Inflammation of the sinus linings may be caused by the common cold, allergies, nasal polyps, or a deviated septum.  Immune deficiencies or medications that suppress the immune system can also lead to sinusitis development.

Children may also develop a sinusitis.  Sinus problems in little ones can be caused by allergies, pacifier use, or drinking from a bottle while lying on their back.  A child’s environment such as being in daycare and catching illnesses from other children or being in the presence of smoke can also lead to a sinusitis in children.

So what is one to do if you have a toothache as well as a cold or a history of sinus problems.  Our recommendation is that you always consult with a dentist to determine if indeed the toothache is related to the tooth itself.  The dentist can examine the tooth and determine if it is the cause of the pain.  If it is the cause, the tooth can be treated eliminating the pain or if it is not the cause, the tooth can be eliminated as a source of the perceived tooth pain.  A thorough examination by a physician can then determine if the pain is sinus related.  With the proper treatment, patients can avoid days of needless discomfort.


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