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Is Your Sinus Infection Causing Your Toothache?

That ache in your tooth is making you miserable. It’s throbbing, and it gets worse when you bite down. Your gums feel swollen. Would you believe that it may not be a dental problem? It could be a sinus problem.

Tooth pain is a problem for a lot of us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the last year 40% of adults have had mouth pain. That pain often stems from dental problems like tooth decay and gum disease. But sometimes, sinus problems can trigger toothaches.

Signs a sinus infection might be causing your toothache

“People with sinus disease can commonly have tooth pain,” said Eugene Chang, MD, an otolaryngologist at Banner—University Medical Center Tucson Campus.

Look for these telltale signs that a sinus problem may be driving your pain:

  • You have other sinus symptoms besides a toothache. “Isolated tooth pain by itself without other sinus symptoms is usually not related to sinus disease,” Dr. Chang said. Sinus symptoms could be a runny or stuffy nose, facial pressure, colored nasal discharge, headache, post-nasal drip, cough, sore throat, or a change in your sense of smell.
  • Your toothache is in the back of your upper teeth. Your cheek sinuses, also called maxillary sinuses, contact the roots of your upper molars. So, you’re more likely to notice a sinus-related toothache there. Toothaches in your bottom teeth or front teeth are less likely to be sinus related.

Here’s what to do if you have a toothache

Not sure where you should turn for help? Start with your dentist, Dr. Chang said. Although it’s possible that your tooth is healthy, it’s more likely that a dental problem, not a sinus problem, is the cause of your pain. In some cases, it could be both!

With a dental exam and dental x-rays, your dentist can figure out if your problem stems from your tooth. If it’s a tooth-related problem your dentist can recommend a treatment plan:

  • For tooth decay, you may need a filling, crown, root canal, or replacement tooth.
  • For gum disease, you may need oral hygiene improvements, special dental cleanings, or medication.

And if your dentist doesn’t spot a problem, you can follow up with your primary care provider or ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Here’s what happens next

Your healthcare provider will ask questions about your medical history and examine you. If a sinus problem is causing your toothache, your doctor might:

  • Recommend warm compresses, decongestants, or breathing in steam to help alleviate symptoms
  • Prescribe antibiotics or oral steroids, though they aren’t always needed
  • Suggest you try nasal irrigation or sprays

If those treatments don’t bring relief, you might need to consult a head and neck surgeon. But in most cases, less-invasive treatments are all you need to get rid of the pain.

To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

Ear, Nose and Throat Allergy and Immunology Infectious Disease