Can sinus pressure cause pain in my teeth?

Larry J. Schmitt, DDS
Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Absolutely! The maxillary sinuses are hollow air filled cavities on either side of the nose. Some of the sensory nerves that supply the upper back and middle teeth run through the maxillary sinuses. When the sinus membranes are inflamed or infected, the nerves can be irritated resulting in toothache symptoms. An upper toothache can often be the major symptom in sinusitis.
Because the sinuses are close to the upper jaw, a sinus infection -- and the resulting sinus pressure -- can sometimes cause you to feel pain in your teeth. To alleviate the pain, first visit your dentist, who can give you an exam to determine if sinus pressure (rather than a toothache or other issue) is causing discomfort to your jaw joints and teeth. Once you know the cause, you can treat it accordingly, and your pain should subside.
Todd A. Welch, DMD

How to know if the pain is coming from a tooth or your sinuses: When a patient comes in with severe tooth pain, we normally take an x-ray of the offending tooth. Tooth pain is usually caused by reversible and irreversible pulpitis. We also do some tests on the tooth by feeling around it for an infection, tapping on it, and/or putting ice on it. This allows us to better understand if the pain is coming from one tooth or not. If the teeth don't have any cavities in them and appear to be healthy, then we usually try to find another source of the pain, such as a sinus infection (sinusitis).

Symptoms of a maxillary sinus infection: Although there are other sinuses, the main pair of sinuses that affect your upper teeth are the maxillary sinuses. One of the main symptoms of maxillary sinusitis is continuous pain in your back upper teeth that changes (gets worse or better) when you move your head (such as lying down or standing up).

Treatment of maxillary sinusitis: Maxillary sinusitis can be treated in a variety of ways. Here are some common treatments for maxillary sinusitis:

  • Using a humidifier to moisten the air that you breathe in. This helps to loosen any dried secretions that have accumulated in the sinuses.
  • Using nasal spray that contains phenylephrine or ephedrine.
  • Taking decongestants orally such as Sudafed (psedoephedrine).
  • Taking antibiotics if it is believed that the sinusitis is caused by bacteria. Common antibiotics that are prescribed for sinusitis include amoxicillin, trimethoprimsulfamethoxazole, clavulanate with amoxicillin, azithromycin, and cefuroxime.
Conclusion: Although toothaches are generally caused by a problem with your tooth, it is important to understand that your teeth have neighbors, such as your sinuses, which can mimic a toothache.

Sinus pressure or infection can indeed cause pain which feels as though it’s coming from teeth. Here are some signs that it’s a sinus problem and not a tooth problem: the pain is only in the upper back teeth, it’s a continuous dull ache and/or tenderness to chewing or biting vs. sensitivity to hot or cold, and you have sinus or nasal congestion on the same side as the tooth pain. In this case try a decongestant nasal spray. If in doubt, see a dentist to examine the painful teeth.

It's true. On top of everything else a sinus infection brings, it can also cause tooth pain. That's because your upper teeth are so close to your sinuses and when they get infected, it can feel like your mouth is infected too. Of course it is possible that the tooth pain is unrelated to your sinus infection, which is why, in addition to consulting a physician, you should also have your dentist to perform an exam to make sure you don't have a cavity or abscess or other oral health problem.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.