Inflammation of the sinuses and tooth pain often coincide. Sinus pressure, particularly in the maxillary sinuses, can cause pain to radiate to the jaw and teeth, and might be experienced as a toothache. A patient who has a sinus infection might experience dental pain and assume that the problem lies in the mouth, completely overlooking the actual cause.
The maxillary sinuses are hollows in the skull situated just above the upper, or maxillary, teeth. These sinuses lie very close to the upper teeth, separated from the roots by only a thin layer of bone tissue. Nerves running to these roots pass through a trough along the lining of the sinuses.
Irritation of the sinuses cause the membranes to produce fluid in the sinus cavity. When the soft tissues of the other sinuses or the nasal passages are irritated, this fluid drains away as postnasal drip. Drainage for the maxillary sinuses, however, does not lie at the bottom of the cavity, meaning that fluid will collect in the base of the sinuses. Fluid not only creates pressure within the sinuses, it also can irritate the surrounding soft tissue. Irritated tissues swell, further increasing pressure in the sinuses.
Pressure can cause pain to the sinuses directly, but teeth can be affected as well. The nerve running to the teeth gets squeezed by pressure in the sinuses and pain in the teeth is the result. The brain, sensing only that the nerve to the teeth is registering pain, cannot tell that the source of the pain lies further up the nerve.
When a patient reports blocked sinuses and tooth pain, sinus infection is the most likely cause. Tooth pain caused by sinus infection will be a dull ache across the upper teeth, and it might affect the jaw as well. Sinus pain and other symptoms of sinusitis will often, but not always, accompany this tooth pain.
Patients experiencing inflamed or infected sinuses and tooth pain usually will need to see a doctor. Antibiotics are often required to fight the infection. Allergy medication, decongestants and nasal irrigation might also be recommended, depending on the cause of the inflammation.
Infection of a maxillary tooth might also cause an irritation of the maxillary sinuses. Infected teeth are most likely the result of poor oral hygiene and an avoidance of professional dental care. When the infection reaches the tooth’s root, it might also spread to surrounding tissues, including the sinus membranes. Left untreated, the patient will experience repeatedly infected sinuses and tooth pain.