It’s that time of year again when the coughs and colds are everywhere and can wreak havoc with your sinuses. Sinus infections and inflammation can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms – headaches, fever and tiredness, to name just a few. But are you aware that toothache can be one of those unpleasant symptoms?
We all have a total of eight sinuses – these are air-filled holes or spaces within the bones of the face and head. They are found behind your cheekbones, over your forehead/above your eyes, in between your eyes and deeper inside the head. It is not clear why we have or need sinuses although specialists believe that they help to filter the air in your nasal cavity as well as producing mucus to clean your nose. They also contribute to the strength of the facial bones and skull. Colds can lead to these becoming blocked with fluid, which can cause inflamed and swollen sinus tissue (sinusitis as it is otherwise known) and possible infection. The pressure created by this congestion can cause what is known as referred pain. This pain can radiate through your head and nose, as well as your teeth. This is because the nerves that serve the upper teeth run in the floor of the cheek (maxillary) sinuses; therefore any inflammation in these sinuses can cause swollen nerves to the teeth, which can be painful.
So how can you tell whether your toothache is down to sinusitis or an unrelated dental problem? Here is a list of a few of the symptoms to look out for if you feel your toothache is actually sinus-related:
• Sinus toothache is felt in the upper teeth, usually the back molars, and does not feel as if it is from one specific tooth.
• The pain will intensify when you move your head, or if you jump up and down (not recommended if you’re feeling under the weather!). The pain may lessen when you lie down.
• You have general cold symptoms such as a runny nose, feeling tired and sore throat.
• Ears feeling painful and full.
• Pressure/pain around your eyes, forehead and nose.
• Not being able to taste or smell.
Before a visit to the GP for antibiotics, you could try over the counter remedies (decongestants) or home remedies. These include breathing in steam and drinking plenty of fluids. Saltwater (saline) rinses to the nose are also usually extremely helpful in clearing out mucus from the nose – they can also enable prescribed medications such as steroid sprays or decongestants to work better on the nasal lining.
If your symptoms persist despite the above treatments, you may need to see an ENT specialist for a thorough examination and further treatment as required.