Is Your Toothache a Sign of Sinusitis?

Toothaches can range in presentation from mild to throbbing pain, to affecting an entire side of your face. There are many causes of a toothache including decay, gum disease, or other conditions in the mouth. However, a lesser-known, yet not uncommon reason for a toothache is the presence of sinusitis.

Shot of a young businessman suffering with a headache while working in an office

Gradyreese / Getty Images

Self-Test and Diagnosis

If you’ve recently recovered from a head cold or you have chronic sinusitis and you’ve noticed you have a painful tooth, there’s a test you can perform that may show whether it’s caused by sinusitis.

When you perform head movements such as tilting by bending over or an up and down walking motion and you feel a worsening of the tooth pain, then your toothache it may be a direct result of a sinus infection.

Sinus infection (sinusitis) is commonly known as the inflammation of the nasal sinuses. Sinusitis usually results from a cold or flu caused by viruses or bacteria that migrate into the sinuses leading to a more painful and persistent bacterial infection.

The sinuses in the cheekbone (which are most commonly affected) are contained in the upper jaw, so when a sinus infection occurs, the resulting pressure from the inflammation can cause you to feel pain in your teeth.

Sinusitis can also rarely result from a diseased tooth spreading the infection to the sinuses. Therefore a proper diagnosis from your dentist is necessary to determine if tooth decay is the cause. Once sinusitis is confirmed you can treat and manage the pain.

Treatment of Sinusitis

If you have a toothache but suspect sinusitis, it’s important to try and resolve the infection as best you can. If the sinus infection resolves and the toothache still exists, it’s time to go back to the dentist.

Depending on the severity of the infection, various treatments exist to remedy and manage sinusitis. Over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, and natural therapies may aid in the management of sinusitis symptoms and treatment of the infection.

A full dental check-up every six months will rule out any underlying dental issues that can result in a toothache.

Natural Therapies

Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids can help keep the membranes hydrated and thin the mucus. Also, a balanced diet and plenty of rest are beneficial to raise your immunity and recover from illness.

Warm face cloth: Applying a warm damp cloth over your nose and eye area for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day can ease the sinus pain.

Saline nasal sprays or irrigation: Saltwater treatments are available at pharmacies. They can aid in relieving congestion and unblocking the nose by irrigating the sinus cavity.

Humidifiers: The moist air from a humidifier or steam from a shower or bath can help to loosen secretions in the sinuses and unblock the nose.

Herbs: Some herbs may help relieve a sinus toothache. Garlic is a natural bacteria fighter. Holding a fresh clove to affected teeth may relieve pain. Turmeric is known as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory herb and when made into a paste with water may aid in reducing painful teeth.

Studies have also shown that ginger is also known as an anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever. It may fight the underlying infection as well as relieve the pain caused by the sinus.

Over-the-Counter Medicines

Analgesics: Medicines that can ease pain, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can also help reduce fever that may be associated with sinusitis. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory, which can reduce inflammation in the sinus cavity. If the pain is very strong, painkillers with codeine may be needed for a short period.

Decongestants: Nasal sprays, drops, or tablets that can relieve a blocked nose work by restricting blood flow to the sinus cavity causing the sinuses to shrink. Another common decongestant that can be taken in tablet form is pseudoephedrine, which can shrink swollen membranes.

Decongestant nasal sprays and drops that contain phenylephrine and ephedrine should only be used for a short period as they can cause rebound congestion.

Antihistamines: These may be necessary if an allergy is suspected as the cause of sinusitis. If you have sinusitis and an allergy, controlling the allergy may help with relieving the symptoms of sinusitis.

Prescription Medicines

Antibiotics: Antibiotics would only be prescribed if a bacterial infection were the cause of sinusitis. However, most people with acute sinusitis improve in two weeks without the need for antibiotics.

Steroids: Prescription steroid nasal sprays can help prevent sinus infections. These drugs are recommended if you suffer from nasal allergies (such as hayfever) as well as sinusitis which may reduce the swelling around the sinus passaged resulting in nasal drainage.

Was this page helpful?
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Little RE, Long CM, Loehrl TA, Poetker DM. Odontogenic sinusitis: A review of the current literatureLaryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2018;3(2):110–114. doi:10.1002/lio2.147

  2. Egan M, Hickner J. Saline irrigation spells relief for sinusitis sufferersJ Fam Pract. 2009;58(1):29–32.

  3. Bayan L, Koulivand PH, Gorji A. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effectsAvicenna J Phytomed. 2014;4(1):1–14.

  4. Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Askari G, Hariri M, Darvishi L, Mofid MR. Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidenceInt J Prev Med. 2013;4(Suppl 1):S36–S42.

  5. Venekamp RP, Thompson MJ, Hayward G, et al. Systemic corticosteroids for acute sinusitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(3):CD008115. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008115.pub3