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Pain in Your Upper Teeth? It Could Stem From Your Sinuses

Does it surprise you to learn that the pain you feel in your upper teeth could be caused by a sinus infection? Whether due to pressure or an infection that spreads from one structure to the other, your sinuses and upper teeth share a close connection.

The team at SCENT- Southern California Ear, Nose, and Throat combines their experience with advanced computed tomography (CT) imaging to identify the source of your symptoms and create the individualized treatment you need. Learn how problems in your sinuses can lead to tooth pain.

Upper teeth and sinuses share a close connection

You have four pairs of sinuses tucked into hollow areas in the bones around your nose. Only one pair of sinuses, called the maxillary sinuses, are near your teeth. The maxillary sinuses are located along both sides of your nose, where the floor of each sinus cavity comes very close to the roots of your upper molars.

The upper molars and maxillary sinuses are only separated by a very thin bone. And in some cases, one or more of the molars may protrude into the sinus. Because of this close connection, the maxillary sinuses can easily affect the upper molars and cause tooth pain.

Maxillary sinus infections cause tooth pain

All your nasal sinuses are lined with tissues that produce mucus. The mucus drains out of each sinus and into your nose, where it moisturizes your nose and protects it from pollutants, dust, dirt, and microorganisms.

When the maxillary sinuses develop a bacterial or viral infection, called sinusitis, the mucus-producing tissues become inflamed and swollen, blocking the opening into your nose. That’s when the mucus gets trapped, collects inside the sinus, and creates pressure.

There are two ways your infected maxillary sinuses can lead to tooth pain: through pressure or by spreading the infection.

Sinus pressure pinches tooth nerves

When pressure from the sinus pushes against the upper molars, you develop tooth pain even though there’s nothing wrong with your tooth.

This phenomenon, called a sinus toothache, occurs as the swollen and pressurized sinus pushes against the nerves leaving the tooth root and traveling to your brain. Pain from the pinched nerves feels like it’s coming from your tooth.

Sinus infection spreads

The infection can also spread from the maxillary sinus to the tooth root, causing true tooth pain. The same problem also works in reverse; an infection in an upper molar can spread to your sinuses.

Tooth infections spread to your sinuses

Should your upper back molars become infected due to tooth decay or gum disease, the infection can travel through the tooth root and into the maxillary sinus. When this happens, you have a condition called maxillary sinusitis of endodontic origin (MSEO) or maxillary sinusitis of dental origin (MSDO).

Just as chronic sinusitis can lead to ongoing tooth pain, untreated MSEO sets you up for chronic sinus problems. Studies show that dental infections may be responsible for 10-40% of all cases of maxillary sinusitis.

Symptom interpretation

If bacteria from a tooth infection have a pathway into the maxillary sinus, the infection becomes more widespread. As a result, you may not develop the intense pain that’s normally associated with a dental infection or impacted tooth.

When you have pain in several upper molars, and especially when that pain is accompanied by sinusitis symptoms, chances are the problem originates in your sinuses.

Any time you have symptoms of sinusitis, such as nasal discharge, nasal congestion, fatigue, and facial pain or pressure, it doesn’t matter if the problem originated in your teeth or sinuses. 

Those symptoms point to the fact that you have a sinus condition that needs the attention of our team at SCENT. Whether you have questions about your symptoms or you need to schedule an appointment, we can help. 

We have offices to serve you in Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Torrance, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach, California. Just call the nearest office or use the online booking system.

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