/ Sinus Infection
Can a Sinus Infection Cause Tooth Pain?

Can a Sinus Infection Cause Tooth Pain?

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is accompanied by many different side effects, one of which may be tooth pain. Sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull which allow dust and mucus to drain from the nose to the back of the throat. When your sinuses become inflamed, mucous membranes begin to swell, trapping dust particles and disrupting the normal flow of mucus. This will most often create pressure in the face and sinus region. Depending on which sinus cavity is infected, you may have variations in symptoms and location of pain.

When you are diagnosed with a sinus infection, it could be in one or more of the following areas:

  • The maxillary sinus, located within the bony structure of the cheeks
  • The frontal sinus, located behind the forehead and eyebrows
  • The ethmoid sinus, located on either side of the bridge of the nose
  • The sphenoid sinus, located behind the nose directly in front of the brain

Tooth pain caused by pressure in the nasal cavity may come as a surprise to you if you have a sinus infection. You may even think you are suffering from a dental problem unrelated to sinuses. In fact, tooth pain is a side effect of sinusitis due to the pressure on nasal cavities, which are very close to the mouth. The maxillary sinus, located behind the cheekbones, is especially close to the roots of your top molar teeth. The pressure from mucus blockage in this sinus can disturb the nerves that go through the roots of the molar, causing a toothache. Typically, it’s felt in multiple teeth as a dull ache or throbbing pain, like something is exerting a strong force down on your teeth. This can lead to sensitivity when eating and chewing, as well.

Sinus Infection or Toothache?

If you’re experiencing tooth pain, you may want to take note of your other symptoms so you can know if your tooth pain is caused by sinusitis or something else. One way is to pay keen attention to what symptoms came first. If you first had a cold, then sinus infection symptoms, then a toothache, it could very well be a result of bad swelling and inflammation from your sinus infection. In which case, you should see a doctor over a dentist.

An abscess or cavity is not likely to cause the following symptoms, while a sinus infection will:

  • nasal congestion
  • cough and/or sore throat from post-nasal drip
  • headache
  • earache
  • runny nose

Signs of a tooth abscess without a sinus infection generally include:

  • pain and swelling on both sides of the face
  • redness in the gums
  • bad taste or odor in the mouth
  • fever

If you are able to press on your tooth that’s hurting you without feeling a shoot of intense, immediate pain, then you more likely have tooth pain caused from sinus pressure in your head than a cavity. If the pain is more persistent or intense, or if you have a sensitive reaction to hot or cold foods, you should contact your dentist. Such symptoms could be a sign of:

  • abscess
  • periodontal disease
  • tooth grinding
  • cavities

Fortunately, the road to relief from sinus tooth pain is not much different from all other sinusitis symptoms. Mucus blockage is the source of all the pain, so targeting that, be it through over-the-counter treatments or home remedies that work for you, will help alleviate the pressure put on your mouth, and in turn relieve tooth pain.

Sinus Infection After Tooth Extraction

Can getting a tooth removed cause a sinus infection?

The extraction of upper molar and premolar teeth can put the maxillary sinus at risk for infection, as the upper jaw is located very close to the maxillary sinus. Due to the proximity of tooth roots to the maxillary sinus cavity, the sinus may end up with a small hole or passageway created from extraction. This passageway is called an oral-antral fistula, and is quite common in tooth extraction.

Typically, fistulas are very small and unnoticeable to both surgeons and patients. In some cases, however, this passageway may not heal quickly enough, and saliva will get into the sinus cavity from your mouth. As saliva contains bacteria, its entrance into the maxillary sinus may lead to infection and sometimes chronic sinusitis if left untreated. Unlike a regular sinus infection, one caused by tooth extraction will likely include nasal discharge in the mouth, as it leaks out of the open cavity.

If you think you may have an oral-antral fistula, one way to check is via a nose blowing test. Close both nostrils, open your mouth and try to blow gently down through the nose. If you hear a whistling sound, it may be a sign of even the smallest fistula in your nasal cavity. You will need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, not a dentist, to further diagnose and determine a treatment.

A specialist can diagnose a fistula by examining the sinus and nose with a small endoscope, or via imaging techniques such as a CT scan. Treatment may initially involve antibiotics to get rid of the infection, followed by a minor surgery to repair the fistula. Doctors repair an oral-antral fistula by moving tissue to cover the opening in the sinus and prevent the entrance of saliva in the future. While the surgery is quite quick, recovery time can take 7-10 days.

Other Sinusitis Symptoms

In examining whether you have a sinus infection or tooth pain, it can be important to evaluate other symptoms. Sinusitis symptoms may vary in severity, but most people will experience the same general symptoms. These include:

  • Facial pain – Swelling in the sinuses will create pressure and tenderness in the face, causing a constant, dull ache in areas where the inflamed cavities are located. This may include pain in your forehead, between your eyes, in your jaw and teeth, or on either side of your nose. The swelling may also be visible, particularly at the bridge of the nose or under the eyes.
  • Headaches – The constant pressure and swelling from blocked nasal passages associated with sinus infections can lead to headaches. Typically, people experience the worst headaches in the morning, after fluids have built up over night from laying on your back. Headaches can then worsen with sudden changes of air pressure, such as when traveling.
  • Sinus discharge – Sinus infections often cause a runny nose, with discolored discharge frequently leaking out. If you blow your nose and your mucus is a greenish-yellow color, this is a sign of infection.
  • Postnasal drip – The build up of discharge will force you to blow your nose more frequently, and in some cases, the mucus may pass your nose and drip down the back of your throat. This symptom is known as postnasal drip, and may produce an itch or tickle in the back of your throat. It may also lead to voice hoarseness and cause you to clear your throat throughout the day.
  • Cough – Postnasal drip is at its worst at night due to laying on your back, causing a cough which may interrupt your sleep. Coughing can become more persistent over time, depending on the severity of your infection and how frequently you experience postnasal drip. If you prop yourself up while you sleep, this may lessen postnasal drip and calm down the coughing symptoms.
  • Congestion – Trapped mucus and blockage in the sinuses may lead to a stuffy nose and force you to breath out of your mouth.
  • Sore throat – The irritation caused by postnasal drip and breathing out of your mouth may lead to a sore throat. This may also cause voice hoarseness and inflammation in the throat.
  • Loss of taste and bad breath – Due to congestion, you may be unable to smell or taste as your normally would. The presence of harmful bacteria in your nose and sinus cavities may also lead to bad breath, or an unpleasant scent from your nose.

If you have allergies, asthma, a weakened immune system or structural blockage in the sinuses, you’re be at greater risk for such complications. In addition, people also ask about:

Q: Can a Sinus Infection Cause Fever?
A: Having a fever is not an extremely common symptom of chronic or acute sinusitis, but will sometimes occur. You may also be experiencing a common cold, which has similar symptoms and is often associated with a fever. In very rare circumstances, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as a brain infection or a bone infection, particularly for young males with frontal sinusitis. Bone infections may also be fungal, which is determined via a bone biopsy.

Q: Can a Sinus Infection Cause Eye Pain?
A: Sinusitis which reaches the eyes can lead to swollen tissue below the eyes, making them look puffier, or in some cases, swollen shut. These symptoms may be signs of an eye socket infection, which is a rare but serious complication of ethmoid sinusitis. Such complications can cause swelling behind or below the eyes, redness, and reduced vision. Pressure on the optic nerve due to swelling may cause permanent eye damage or loss in vision if not treated immediately.

Q: Can a Sinus Infection Cause Neck Pain and Stiffness?
A: If you’re experiencing neck pain and stiffness, especially if accompanied by a fever and nasal congestion, it could be the sign of a sinus infection having moved to the brain. This can lead to life-threatening meningitis or brain abscesses. Brain infections are usually caused by the spreading of frontal and sphenoid sinusitis (or infections closer to the brain and eyes).

Q: Can a Sinus Infection Cause Mental Confusion or Personality Changes?
A: Having difficulty remembering basic things or experiencing a general sense of mental confusion, irritability or change in personality may be a sign that your sinus infection has spread to the brain.

When to Contact A Doctor

Monitoring your symptoms is key to making sure you seek treatment when and if it is needed. If you think you may have a sinus infection, consult your doctor or visit an urgent care center.

Doctor on phone
Jillian Stenzel

Jillian Stenzel

A Nevada-bred traveler & food nerd who dances & eats spinach, sometimes simultaneously. She writes from wherever her curiosity demands, and is passionate about spreading the wisdom of better health.

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