There's never a good time for tooth pain, but developing a toothache when you're suffering from a sinus infection seems like particularly bad luck. While the toothache may be an unlucky coincidence, it can also be connected to the sinus infection. This phenomenon is known as a sinus toothache, and if you have one, you're probably wondering: How long does a sinus toothache last?
The sinuses are spaces in the bones of the face that are filled with air, explains the American Rhinologic Society. The sinuses are located in the cheek bones, in the forehead bone and under the inner corners of the eyes. The sinuses produce nasal mucus.
Sometimes, fluid gets trapped inside the sinuses. Germs can grow in this trapped fluid, resulting in a sinus infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that viruses are the cause of nine out of 10 sinus infections in adults, while bacteria are responsible for one out of 10 cases in adults.
Sinus infections often lead to symptoms like thick nasal discharge, a stuffy nose or pain and pressure on the face. However, these infections can also lead to a more unexpected symptom: toothaches.
Toothaches From Sinus Infections
Since the sinuses aren't located in your mouth, it may seem strange that sinus infections can cause toothaches. However, the maxillary sinuses (the sinuses located in the cheek bones) are actually quite close to the roots of the upper molars. When the sinuses become infected and inflamed, the brain can interpret the resulting pain as coming from the nearby teeth.
Dealing with a sinus toothache can be frustrating, especially when you know the problem is really in your sinus, not your tooth. Reducing the pressure in the sinuses by getting rid of mucus is the best way to relieve a sinus toothache.
Sinus Infection Treatments
The CDC reassures patients that most sinus infections will get better on their own. For sinus infections that are caused by bacteria, antibiotics may be needed to clear up the infection. There are many treatments that can help ease the discomfort in the meantime. Drinking plenty of water can help hydrate the sinuses' mucus membranes and decrease mucus buildup. Taking a steamy shower may also help with decongestion.
Over-the-counter medications can also be helpful. Nasal decongestants can help relieve symptoms, though the Mayo Clinic warns they shouldn't be used for more than a few days. Using these medications for too long can cause rebound congestion. Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen, can provide temporary pain relief.
So how long does a sinus toothache last? Unless there are other factors contributing to your tooth pain, the toothache should stop when your sinus infection goes away. While sinus infections — and the resulting toothaches — can be painful, the Mayo Clinic reassures patients that they usually clear up within seven to 10 days. If you don't feel better in this time frame, consult your doctor.
Other Causes of Tooth Pain
Sinus infections are just one of the many possible causes of tooth pain. Toothaches can also be caused by cavities, cracked teeth, tooth sensitivity or tooth abscesses. To determine the cause of your toothache, make an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can examine your teeth and determine if the pain is associated with a sinus infection or another issue.
To keep your teeth healthy, remember to visit your dentist regularly for checkups. It's a good idea to make an appointment at least twice a year, though some people will need more frequent visits.
Toothaches can be painful, especially when they occur with a sinus infection, but there are ways to find relief. For help managing a toothache, speak with your dentist to find a treatment that works for you.