Your body is a complex and interconnected collection of systems and organs, and what affects one part can affect another. While we may tend to segregate dental health from the rest of the body, the reality is that they interact in often surprising ways. In particular, your sinuses and your teeth are interrelated, and your sinus health can affect your oral health. Understanding this relationship is another step in knowing how to take care of both your teeth and your body as a whole.
Sinus Pain Vs. Tooth Pain
Your sinuses and your teeth exist in close proximity. We tend to think of sinuses as being in your nose, but in reality your sinuses are a series of cavities within the front of your skull around your nose, eyes, and cheeks. So what do your sinuses do? Well, the truth is we don’t know for sure. Experts have various ideas: sinuses may help humidify the air you inhale before it reaches your lungs, they may help filter particulate matter, they may help enhance the sound of your voice, or some combination of the above. No one knows for sure, which makes the interaction between your sinuses and the rest of your body that much more interesting and maybe a bit mysterious.
Due to their proximity, sinus pain and tooth pain often interact. In particular it can be easy to confuse the two. Both can manifest as a sharp shooting pain in the jaw, cheek, or other parts of the face, leading to concerns about a cavity, cracked tooth, or oral abscess when the real cause may be elsewhere. So how can you tell the two problems apart?
Signs of Sinus Issues
Your tooth pain may be sinusitis, an infection or irritation of the sinuses which can result from a variety of causes including illness, allergies, exposure to dust or smoke, or a physical deformity within the sinus cavity. Sinusitis cases vary in severity. Some are mild and respond to home care, some require medical treatment. Signs and symptoms of sinusitis include:
- Sensitivity or pain in the cheekbones, nose, forehead and other parts of the face
- Discolored mucus
- Post-nasal drip,which may in turn cause sore throat or a scratchy voice
- Congestion, which may make breathing difficult
- Inability to smell or taste
As mucus builds up within your sinuses, it increases pressure within the sinus cavity. This is what causes the sensitivity and pain, and what may lead to the confusion between sinus pain and tooth pain. Both can manifest as pain in the jaw, neck, or sides of the head. A good rule of thumb is that if your pain is focused in your upper jaw or neck and you’re experiencing symptoms of sinusitis, your sinuses are the more likely culprit. For most cases of sinusitis, rest, hydration, and over the counter sinus medication can help clear things up fairly quickly. If symptoms persist or worsen, it may be time to contact your doctor and get further treatment.
If pain persists, or if one or more particular teeth are painful or sensitive, it may be an oral health issue and you should then contact your dentist for further guidance. Your body is a complex system, and hopefully we’ve helped you understand how it interacts and what that means for you and your smile!