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When you have a sinus infection, it can feel like your whole head is throbbing. From your cheekbones to your teeth and jaws, the pain seems to be everywhere. But can a sinus infection really spread to your teeth? It can definitely cause tooth pain, particularly in the upper back teeth, but does that mean the teeth are infected along with the sinuses?

To understand the relationship between the teeth and the sinuses, it helps to understand the anatomy of the face. As you probably already know, the sinuses are pairs of empty spaces in your head that connect to your nasal cavity. What you may not realize is that the largest pair of sinuses, the maxillary sinuses, are located above your upper back teeth. Another thing you might not know is that the roots of your teeth are very long and extend very deeply into the gums, leaving only about half the tooth exposed above the gums. This is great news for your teeth, because it means they are strong and well supported. However, it also means that your teeth are pretty close to your maxillary sinuses. In fact, the alveolar bone that contains the roots of the upper teeth is very close to the sinuses, and the roots of these upper teeth are so close to the sinus cavity that they may even extend into it. It makes sense, then, that when the tissues in your sinuses are inflamed because of a sinus infection, you will feel pain not only in your sinuses, but also in those teeth that are so closely connected to the sinus cavities.

As you may have already deduced, the pain can go the other direction as well. Just as a sinus infection can cause tooth pain, a problem with your teeth can cause sinus pain. If you have a serious tooth infection or a tooth abscess in your upper teeth, your sinuses will probably hurt. Additionally, if bacteria from an infected tooth ends up in the sinuses, you could end up with sinusitis.

How do you know if the pain you are feeling is tooth-related or sinus-related? It’s not that hard to tell. If you have sinusitis, you are likely to have several different sinus related symptoms. You will feel pressure, experience post-nasal drip, have uncomfortable stuffiness in your nose and sinuses, and may run a low-grade fever. If you are experiencing these symptoms and one of your teeth is also aching, that toothache is probably related to the sinusitis.

However, if your tooth is infected, you will probably not suffer from post-nasal drip, fever, or any of the other hallmarks of a sinus infection. You should see a dentist as quickly as possible for an infected tooth, because the longer you leave it to get worse, the more likely it is for the infection to work its way into the sinus lining, causing what is known as odontogenic sinusitis, which means the sinusitis started in a tooth.

When in doubt about the origin of pain you are experiencing, you should always seek medical attention. If your tooth hurts, head to the dentist to have it examined and, if necessary, treated. When you see your dentist, he or she will examine your teeth carefully, looking for any reason you might have a toothache. These include gum disease, cavities, and other infections. If your dentist does not see a tooth-related problem, you will probably be encouraged to see your doctor.

To diagnose sinusitis, the doctor will ask about your symptoms, feel your face for tenderness, and look inside your nose. Some tools that might also be used for diagnosis include nasal endoscopy, a CT scan, and tissue samples from the nose or sinuses. Most of the time, these tests aren’t necessary unless your sinusitis is getting worse or won’t respond to treatment. Typically, you can treat sinusitis with self-care, using things like saline nasal spray, nasal corticosteroids, decongestants, over the counter pain relievers, or even allergy medications. If these measures don’t work, and the sinus infection is bacterial, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, like a Z-Pak.

If you need a doctor, you’ll find compassionate care at 45 Urgent Care. Since September of 2000, the co-owners of 45 Urgent Care have treated the residents of Jackson and west Tennessee for musculoskeletal conditions, focusing on physical medicine, chiropractic care, and rehabilitation. When we moved to our new location, we made the decision to bring superior health care to the community with a dual purpose facility, with Advanced Rehab and Medical and 45 Urgent Care providing two distinct health care options with the same goals. Striving to restore lasting enjoyment of life in and beyond our community, we provide innovative, collaborative healthcare with the goal of serving and empowering each patient to achieve optimal health. Call 731-554-0571, head to our walk-in clinic, or visit our website to schedule an appointment.