Toothache or a Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is important to dental patients because the symptoms of maxillary sinusitis can mimic pain of a dental origin.  There are 7 Sinuses, which are air filled cavities in the head.  Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses, is a common dilemma, and the fifth most diagnosed problem requiring antibiotics to be prescribed.  Causes of sinusitis include allergic responses, chemical irritation, bacterial infections, and an infected maxillary tooth.

The sinus that most commonly becomes infected is the maxillary sinus due to its prominent exposure to the environment and the anatomy that allows drainage of the cavity.  In the maxillary sinus the mucus must move upward to drain from the sinus and to the nasal cavity.  When a person is standing the maxillary sinus does not drain easily.  This drainage pattern makes the maxillary sinus prone to infection.  These infections can cause pain in the upper teeth.  Tooth pain is often the symptom that brings patients to the office after the “cold” has gone away. 

Symptoms of sinusitis include tenderness over sinuses, nasal congestion, headache, foul odor, and discharge down the back of the throat, fever, and dental pain.  The possible sources of pain in the maxillary area other then sinusitis include:

  • TMJ
  • bruxism (clenching teeth)
  • tooth fracture
  • an infected root canal
  • or periodontal infection (infection in the gums).

When the top sinuses are filled with fluid from inflammation (sinusitis) or infection, the fluid pressure can cause your upper back teeth to ache.  The pain can be spontaneous and it may feel like air pressurizing above your upper back teeth and these teeth may feel sensitive to chewing.  If you feel pain like this, please call for an appointment.  An x-ray and other tests will assist your dentist to diagnose the source of pain.  If the pain is tooth related your dentist will address the issue, although if the pain is from an inflamed sinus cavity your dentist will refer you to your family physician.

For more information about tootaches or sinusitis you can contact Dr. Jeffery Hartman at (814)-643-9414 or (800)-732-9630; visit our Huntingdon Dental Office at 524 Washington Street • Huntingdon, PA 16652; or visit

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