Sinusitis and toothache - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

A sinus inflammation or a sinus infection can cause a severe toothache. You are diagnosed with sinusitis when the tissues surrounding the sinuses get swollen and inflamed. The resulting tooth pain can be a result of drainage from the infection or sinus pressure. It’s often felt in the upper back teeth – those closer to the sinuses.

Sinus anatomy overview

Sinuses are simply connected hollow cavities within the skull. These cavities are lined with tiny hairs called cilia. The hairs help in moving mucus, air, viruses, and bacteria to get filtered. Sinuses allow air to flow and warm it when you breathe in.

The different sinuses in the skull include:

  • Frontal sinuses – these are found right above the eyebrows in the forehead
  • Sphenoid sinus – this is an unpaired sinus located deeper in the skull. It’s found closer to the pituitary gland and optic nerve
  • Ethmoid sinuses – these sinuses are found within the ethmoid bone right between the eyes and above the nose. The ethmoid bone separates the brain and the nasal cavity
  • Maxillary sinuses – these are huge paired sinuses under the cheekbones on both sides of the nose. They are shaped like pyramids and are by far the largest sinuses in the skull

Without the system of sinuses, your head would be much heavier. The sinuses also help to determine what your voice sounds like since voice is affected by how air vibrates in the air cavities.

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What is a sinus infection?

Sinus infections create pressure and pain in your mouth, resulting in sinus tooth pain. The pain is specifically caused by the pressure on the maxillary sinuses. Most people confuse sinus-related toothache with other toothache-causing agents, including tooth decay, impacted wisdom teeth, or gum disease.

What causes sinus infections?

These infections occur when bacteria from your nose find their way into the sinuses. To determine whether it’s a regular toothache or referred pain from the sinus, consider other symptoms presenting themselves aside from the pain around the cheekbones, eyes, and upper teeth.

Sinus vs. regular toothache

Most of the symptoms you experience from a regular toothache resemble those you’d get from a sinus toothache. The difference is that with a sinus toothache; pain is mainly in the upper molars and affects multiple teeth instead of a single tooth. If you experience pain in these teeth along with the symptoms we have highlighted below, then your toothache is most likely caused by a sinus infection.

A toothache that’s caused by oral problems will be focused and intense. A sinus toothache causes pain that intensifies with different movements like bending or jumping. This happens because sinus pressure changes with movements and is experienced more in the teeth. On the flip side, the pain you experience may subside when you lie down or sit.

Symptoms of sinusitis

Any form of sinusitis can be acute or chronic. Below are some symptoms of acute maxillary sinusitis

  • Persistent sinus toothache
  • Fever
  • Stuffy nose and nasal discharge
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Ear fullness or pain
  • Loss of smell and taste
  • Swelling, tenderness, or redness in your cheekbones

Symptoms of chronic maxillary sinusitis include:

  • A persistent sinus-related toothache
  • Cough
  • Pain that gets worse with an allergic reaction or a cold

Sinus infection treatments

A sinus infection can be treated in a couple of ways, depending on the severity of your case.

A simple sinus infection can be treated with:

  • OTC allergy and cold medications
  • Decongestants
  • Drinking a lot of fluids
  • Nasal saline irrigation

If the sinus infection symptoms do not resolve after ten days, then your medical expert may prescribe:

  • Topical or oral decongestants
  • Antibiotics
  • Prescription intranasal steroid sprays

Long-term sinusitis can be nursed by treating the underlying condition. It’s often treated with:

  • Oral pills or topical antihistamine sprays
  • Intranasal steroid sprays
  • Leukotriene antagonists to ease allergy and swelling symptoms
  • Use of saline solutions to rinse your nose

Home remedies

While there are many treatment options for sinusitis, it’s important that you handle the symptoms fast. You can carry out some home remedies and later move on to the above professional treatments if you don’t see any changes. Some of the recommended home remedies include:

Steaming

Breathing in moist and hot air helps to open the nasal passages and relieve pressure from your sinuses. Here is how you go about it;

Pour some boiling water into a huge bowl. Position your face over the bowl and, using a towel, cover your head. While in there, take deep breaths for a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can take a hot, steaming shower twice every day.

Sinus flushing

You can rinse your sinuses with saline solution. This will help you to moisturise your sinus system while clearing any discharge and allergens. You can purchase premixed solutions and use them to flush your sinuses.

Staying hydrated

Drinking lots of water is great for your overall health, including decongesting your sinuses. When suffering from a sinus infection, you should always stay hydrated. Doing this will help in thinning mucus which helps to reduce pressure in your sinus. Hot liquids like tea and soup can be soothing.

When to see a dentist

Regardless of what is causing your pain, the discomfort says something is amiss. The tooth pain might be unrelated to the sinus infection, which is the reason you should schedule a dentist appointment if the pain gets worse. A dentist can examine your teeth to determine if they are the cause of the pain. If the upper back teeth are painful when tapped, it might mean you have a sinus infection.

A dentist can also take an x-ray to help in ruling out dental diseases as the causative agents. If there are doubts about the cause of pain, the dentist will prescribe medication to help with a sinus infection. And if the dentist rules out oral problems as the cause of your toothache, then you should consult a doctor. The doctor will then consider your symptoms as described above to determine whether you have a sinus infection or another problem that’s causing the pain.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.