If you’re feeling an ache in your jaw, you’re probably worried that decay has taken hold. But it’s important to remember the mouth-body connection. If you’ve been feeling congested or having facial pain, a sinus infection might be the real culprit.

Understanding the source of your pain will help you find treatment for the underlying problem and get comfortable again ASAP. If you’ve been feeling achy, check out the tips below for distinguishing between sinus pain and tooth pain. Should the pain continue, check in with Dr. Okamura to make sure there isn’t a larger problem. Schedule an exam today!

Why Your Sinuses Can Cause Tooth Pain

The maxillary sinus is located close to your upper teeth. When this sinus experiences problems like inflammation or infection, it can place pressure on your upper teeth. If you have a cold or a flu, there’s added pressure in your head and this sometimes translates to tooth pain.

The sinuses can also cause your lower teeth to ache. This is due to referred pain, when a problem in one area leads to pain in another. Swollen sinuses can also force the teeth into slightly “off” positions, leading your bite to feel a bit different. This may lead you to clench down and cause grinding-related pain.

Distinguishing Between Tooth Pain & a Sinus Infection

There are a few ways to tell where your pain is really coming from:

  • Assess the type of pain you’re experiencing - Sinus-related pain will usually feel like a dull ache, and typically radiates through a wider area of the mouth and face. If you have an abscessed tooth or advanced decay, you’re more likely to experience a sharp, spot-specific pain.
  • If you have allergies, consider whether they might be acting up - check for the usual causes in your daily life / environment.
  • Check for the sinus infection symptoms listed below
  • Schedule a dental exam - Dr. Okamura will take x-rays and gain a clear picture of what’s going on inside your sinuses vs. your jaw. Treating a sinus infection typically involves antibiotics, decongestants, or a nasal spray, or the infection may go away on its own. A toothache related to a cavity or abscess will not improve with time and should be treated right away.

Sinus Infection Symptoms to Watch For

Identifying a potential sinus infection at home will be easier than diagnosing a cavity. Look for the following to rule out tooth decay -

  • Facial pressure that leads to a dull ache throughout the face - the sides of the nose, the forehead and around the eyes, and the upper jaw
  • Congestion and restricted breathing
  • Greenish-yellow discharge in the throat
  • A sore throat or cough from postnasal drip
  • Headache, jaw pain, or ear pain

Relieving Cold-Induced Tooth Pain

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Breathe in steam to loosen up mucus in nasal passages - try taking a long, hot shower or lowering your head over a bowl of hot water.

  • Eat spicy foods, which have mucus-relieving properties and can help clear sinuses
  • Try humming at different tones, which can help reduce inflammation and help you relax if you’re too congested to sleep

  • Position your head when lying down so that your sinuses will drain - use an extra pillow to prop up your head

If you’re not finding pain relief at home, get in touch for professional help!

Dr. Kim Dr. Kim

Dr. Kim Okamura

I'm Dr. Kim Okamura and this blog is a product of my love of dentistry. I dedicate it to all the patients I have served so that they may better understand my craft. The information here will give you and others the power to maintain and protect one of your most priceless gifts ... your SMILE.