How to Tell the Difference Between Tooth Pain and Sinus Pain
Published May 13, 2022
Because our mouth and sinuses are connected and located pretty close to each other, it can be hard to tell if what you’re feeling is tooth pain or sinus pain. But knowing the difference between tooth pain and sinus pain is essential in treating them effectively.
I mean, you don’t really want your teeth to get pulled out only to find out that it’s your sinuses that are causing you pain. Similarly, sinus medications won’t work if what you really need is a root canal.
So if you’re experiencing discomfort in your upper respiratory area, here’s how to tell if it’s sinus pain or tooth pain.
What’s the Difference Between Tooth Pain and Sinus Pain?
The main difference between tooth pain and sinus pain is where the pain is felt. Tooth pain is generally confined to your mouth, teeth, and gums. While sinus pain can extend to your eyes, nose, cheeks, and forehead.
In addition, tooth pain usually comes off as a sharp, throbbing pain. Sinus pain, on the other hand, is more of a dull ache and pressure pain. Though your cheek muscles may also feel swollen and tender.
One way to check whether it’s sinus pain or tooth pain is to take an inventory of all your other symptoms:
If it’s a sinus infection, you’ll feel symptoms like:
- stuffy nose
- runny nose
- sore throat
- bad breath
- mucus dripping down your throat
Tooth pain, meanwhile, is usually accompanied by the following symptoms:
- swelling in the mouth or gum area
- a foul taste or smell (if it’s due to a rotting tooth)
- sharp pain when biting down on something
Both sets of symptoms may also include fever. Though this happens more often with sinus infections than tooth pain.
As mentioned, sinusitis can also cause your face to feel swollen and tender. So if your cheeks and forehead are sensitive to the touch, that’s a sign of sinus pain.
Common Causes of Tooth Pain
Tooth pain or toothache usually occurs when the nerve at the root of the tooth or surrounding teeth becomes irritated.
As you probably know, the tissues connecting our teeth to our gums are filled with bundles of nerves. They are among the most sensitive nerves in the body. So when they get irritated or infected, they tend to cause so much pain.
There are several factors that can cause these nerve bundles to get irritated or inflamed, such as:
- infected gums
- tooth decay
- a broken or fractured tooth
- a bacterial infection that causes an abscess in the root of the tooth
- a damaged filling
- a recent tooth extraction procedure
Repetitive motions like grinding, clenching, and aggressive chewing can also cause wear and tear to your teeth and surrounding gums. This, in turn, leads to tooth pain.
Common Causes of Sinus Infection
Sinusitis or sinus infection happens when the tissues lining the walls of your sinuses are inflamed. They swell up and prevent proper mucus drainage causing them to clog your nasal passages.
Most cases of sinus infection are caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungus infection. But it can be triggered by factors like:
- the common cold
- a weak or compromised immune system
- nasal polyps (growths in the lining of the nose)
- a deviated septum
Smoking and exposure to smog and toxic chemicals also increase your risk of sinus infection.
Can You Have Tooth Pain from Sinus Infection?
The short answer is yes, a sinus infection can lead to tooth pain. Though the pain is usually limited to your upper back teeth.
Each of us has four pairs of sinus cavities. The largest ones are located above the back teeth of your upper jaw. They’re so close that the roots of your upper back teeth sometimes extend to these cavities. So when they’re inflamed, the nerves surrounding your teeth can also get irritated leading to tooth pain.
Similarly, bacterial infections and abscesses in your teeth also provide a breeding ground for bacteria. This, in turn, can lead to persistent or chronic sinusitis.
How to Relieve Tooth Pain and Sinus Pain
The best way to get rid of sinus pain and tooth pain is to treat the underlying causes.
For instance, if your tooth is aching due to decay or abscess, your dentist may recommend pulling them out. Or if your sinus infection is of bacterial origin, you may need antibiotic therapy.
But for immediate relief, you can try applying a cold compress to the affected area. The cold helps constrict the blood vessels thus reducing pain and inflammation.
Home Remedies for Tooth Pain
For toothache, in particular, the following home remedies may also work:
- Gargling with salt water. Salt has antibacterial properties that can help prevent the growth of bacteria in your teeth and gums.
- Applying garlic paste. Like salt, garlic is a natural antibacterial. Though you may need to contend with garlic breath afterward.
- Guava leaves. As a natural antiseptic, guava can help heal wounds and inflammations faster. So chewing on fresh guava leaves or boiling them and using the water as mouthwash can help relieve toothache.
- Clove. Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, clove is traditionally used to relieve toothache. Applying diluted clove oil to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain in your teeth.
Home Remedies for Sinus Pain
If your discomfort is due to a sinus infection, you can try the following home remedies:
- Saltwater rinse. The salt’s antibacterial properties can help prevent the growth of bacteria in your nasal passages. You can use a neti pot or a saltwater spray for this.
- Warm compress. The moist, warm heat can open up your nasal passages and relieve tension in your sinuses. This helps relax your facial muscles thus relieving pain.
- Humidifier. Dry air can worsen your sinus symptoms. Using a humidifier can help add moisture back into the air and into your nasal passages.
- Hydration. Drinking plenty of water will not only help maintain moisture in your mouth and nose. It can also help flush out the virus.
If your symptoms persist or worsen even after applying these home remedies, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer based in the Philippines. Her commitment to communicating factual content in when writing is unmatched. She works hard to cross check reputable sources to ensure her work uses accurate facts.