What is the Difference Between Tooth Pain and Sinus pain?


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Dr Sukanya Goswami
Sukanya has done BDS. She is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.

Toothache is one of the most dreadful dental conditions that cause extreme pain and discomfort to the patient. Often the range and presentation of the toothache may differ from mild to severe depending on the underlying cause. Sinus pain is usually caused by inflammation of the sinuses, also known as sinusitis. It is generally caused by cold or flu developed from viral or bacterial infection. One characteristic feature of sinus infection is that it has the potential to trigger a toothache.

Tooth pain caused by sinusitis occurs during an increase in the sinus pressure and by drainage from the sinus infection. Symptoms of sinus pain are slightly different from toothache. It mainly includes pain around the nose, eyes, and forehead. Moreover, the patient may experience fever, tiredness, mucous discharge, bad taste, sore throat, and ear pain.

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Treatment of toothache usually depends on the type of cause. Whereas for sinus pain, it usually requires proper drainage and symptomatic treatment. Today’s article will highlight the difference between toothache and sinus pain. Moreover, we will look at the treatment modalities for both types of pain.

What is toothache?

Toothache is a type of pain that occurs in and around the teeth and jaws. The intensity of toothache can range from mild to severe throbbing pain affecting a particular side of the face.

Toothache can occur due to several reasons. Some of the causes of toothache include –

  • Tooth decay
  • Deep cavity
  • A tooth abscess (1)
  • Infected pulp
  • Fracture of tooth
  • Broken fillings
  • Receding gums
  • Periodontal problem
  • Traumatic injury

A lesser-known cause of toothache is sinusitis – inflammation of the sinuses caused by cold or flu.

What is sinus pain?

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Sinus pain is typically caused by sinusitis – inflammation of the nasal sinuses. The common cause of sinus pain is cold or flu caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Usually, sinus pain affects the cheeks, upper jaw, teeth, nasal area, and the forehead. (2)

Another cause of sinus pain is the spread of disease from an infected tooth. Some common causes of sinus pain are listed below –

  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergies
  • Deviation in the nasal septum
  • Presence of nasal polyp
  • Smoking
  • Complications with asthma

Difference between tooth pain and sinus pain

Typically, a regular toothache is limited to the affected tooth. Toothaches are more focused, and therefore the patient can locate the pain in the mouth. However, a sinus tooth pain is primarily felt in the upper jaw, especially in the molar area. Moreover, sinus pain can affect multiple teeth at the same time. (3)

You can differentiate a toothache from a sinus pain by performing head movements such as by tilting or bending over. Additionally, you can also move in an up and down walking motion. Toothache experienced during this moment directs to sinus infection. (4)

Another differentiating factor between sinus pain and regular toothache is the symptoms. Usually, sinus pain is coupled with flu-like symptoms such as –

  • Tenderness around the nose, eyes, and forehead
  • Nasal dripping
  • Halitosis
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Ear fullness or pain
  • Sore throat and hoarseness of the voice
  • Thick mucus discharge
  • Loss of taste and smell

What is the treatment for sinus pain and toothache?

Treatment for sinusitis

There are several natural and medical therapies that can help to relieve sinusitis and reduce the pain. Some of them are listed below –

Natural therapies for sinusitis

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and make the mucus thin and watery.
  • Eat a balanced diet and rest to increase the immunity
  • Apply warm compressions on the nose and eyes by using a warm damp cloth. Place it for ten to twenty minutes and repeat several times in a day(5)
  • Saltwater nasal spray helps to clear the nasal passage and relieve congestion
  • Steam or hot shower bath helps to unblock the nose and release mucus

Medication therapy

  • Analgesics – usually, acetaminophen and ibuprofen are well known over-the-counter medications that can help to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with sinusitis. Moreover, these medications have an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Nasal sprays, tablets, and drops relieve blocked nose. Moreover, they reduce congestion and allows proper breathing.
  • Antihistamines are typically used as preventive medicines to relieve any allergies that might have triggered sinus pain.
  • Antibiotics and steroids should be taken after consultation from the doctor.

Treatment for toothache

Usually, the remedy for toothache is determined by a dentist after a thorough physical and radiographic examination. However, in the meantime, the symptoms of a toothache can be managed by the patient in the following ways –

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Topical numbing gels can also be used to relieve tooth pain. However, care should be taken to avoid benzocaine containing gels for children under the age of two years. (6)
  • Hot and cold compressions using a heating pad or an ice pack respectively for 15 minutes. Repeat the compressions several times in a day.
  • Saltwater mouth rinses several times in a day is best to relieve inflammation.

Take away message

Toothache and sinus pain are quite different from one another. However, there is a slight connection between the two. While toothaches are more focused and limited to the affected tooth, sinus pain has a generalized effect. Toothaches are typically caused by tooth decay, abscess, gum disease, tooth fracture, or broken fillings. On the other hand, sinus pain is caused by inflammation of the nasal sinuses from a cold or flu.

One of the easiest ways to differentiate sinus pain from toothache is by performing some head movements that may increase the pain around the nose, cheeks, and forehead. Treatment modalities are quite different for sinus pain and toothache. It mainly depends on the type of cause. Usually, the symptomatic approach is followed in both situations. However, a toothache is ultimately treated by a dentist after careful evaluation.

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What is the Difference Between Tooth Pain and Sinus pain?

Regular toothache is limited to the affected tooth. Toothaches are more focused, and therefore the patient can locate the pain in the mouth. But sinus tooth pain is primarily felt in the upper jaw and it affects multiple teeth at the same time.
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