How to tell the difference between sinus pain and tooth pain
When you get a toothache, while the pain itself may be felt in your teeth, it may be that the cause of the pain is not dental in nature. One such case is sinus pain, where the pain actually originates in the sinuses instead of the teeth. It is important to figure out where the pain is coming from, as the treatment depends on this.
What is sinus pain?
The sinuses are hollow spaces in the bones of the face, lined by mucous membrane. They help in enhancing the sound quality of your voice. They are normally empty, but in the case of allergies, inflammation or a cold, they can fill with mucus and become blocked and swollen. The maxillary sinuses, which are in the cheekbones, are directly above your upper teeth, with some of the roots of the upper teeth in contact with the sinuses. In the case of the sinuses becoming inflamed and swollen, they exert pressure on the roots of the upper teeth. This causes pain directly. An indirect way of transferring pain to the teeth is by referred pain due to a common nerve supply. Either way, it can seem that you have a toothache, whereas it is actually sinus pain.
Typical symptoms of sinus toothache
Most features of a sinus toothache are similar to a toothache of dental origin. Along with pain, swelling and fever, you may experience symptoms related to the sinuses, such as cough, headache, nasal congestion and runny nose. A differentiating feature of a sinus toothache is that the pain is typically present on both sides of the face.
How to manage the pain of a sinus toothache
You should consult your dentist for comprehensive treatment of your sinus toothache. Your dentist will assess your teeth and take some X rays to determine whether the pain originates in the sinus or in the teeth. In case of the toothache being dental in origin, the treatment will involve dental intervention. In case of the toothache originating from your sinuses, your dentist will refer you to your doctor for treatment of your sinus inflammation and congestion. In the time that it takes for your appointment with your health care provider to come around, there are some things you can do at home to manage the pain of a sinus toothache. These home remedies are effective in relieving sinus toothache pain.
- Use steam inhalation at home: By breathing in steam at home, you can open up your sinuses. This will cause them to drain, which relieves the pressure on your teeth. In this way, the clearing out of your sinuses helps relieve the pain of a sinus toothache.
- Apply a hot towel to your face: By holding a hot towel to your face or nose, you can bring heat to your sinuses and help them drain. Make sure to use a towel or face cloth that is reasonably hot and not so hot that it will harm the skin of your face.
- Pain medication and antihistamines: You can use over the counter pain medication as well as anti-allergy medication such as antihistamines and decongestants. The pain medication will help manage the toothache and the antihistamines and decongestants will help clear out your sinuses and deal with the problem at the source.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated: Similar to having a cold or flu, having inflamed sinuses is a condition where dehydration will worsen the issue. Avoid this problem by drinking enough water and increasing your intake of fluids. You can always try the traditional chicken soup method. In this way, you have something hot to slurp, which helps soothe your congested sinuses and counts towards keeping hydrated as well.
- Use home remedies aimed at alleviating toothache of dental origin: While you are considering that the toothache is dental in nature, you should also try home remedies that are used for regular toothache. In case of the toothache arising from your teeth instead of your sinuses, or a combination of sinus toothache and dental toothache, these home remedies will help alleviate your pain. You can use lukewarm salt water by mixing some salt in lukewarm water and rinsing out your mouth with it. This will help remove any dislodged food particles that may be irritating your teeth, as well as reducing the level of bacterial action in your mouth. Another way of combating bacterial action is to use garlic, by either chewing on garlic on the side of the mouth where the tooth hurts, or cutting up some garlic and placing it next to the tooth. You can also try using toothpaste or mouthwash which is specifically for sensitive teeth. It will help reduce your pain. Another popular home remedy is to use clove or clove oil by soaking a ball of cotton with it and placing it over the tooth that hurts. You can also cut a piece of raw potato and place it in case of a visibly decayed tooth or chipped tooth.
Wait and see
Wait to see how your painful condition changes after the resolution of the cold, flu or runny nose due to seasonal allergies which was causing your sinuses to become inflamed. If the pain persists, it indicates that the toothache is coming from your teeth and you need to see your dentist. If the pain goes away when the cold, flu or allergies go away, then it probably means that the pain was coming from your inflamed sinuses. As your sinuses settle down and return to normal, your pain should go away as well.
Just a reminder
While waiting to see whether your pain goes away along with the cold is a viable strategy, it is definitely a good move to get an appointment with your dentist just in case. You can go for a general checkup and get the painful teeth assessed in order to rule out tooth decay or other conditions that can cause your teeth to hurt.