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  • Writer's pictureKelly White

Is Your Tooth Pain a Sinus or Ear Infection?

As the winter months settle in and snow blankets the ground, it's the time of year when more people get sick with colds and flus. While many cold symptoms such as coughing, nasal congestion, a fever, and muscle aches are easily identifiable, some symptoms like tooth pain can be confusing.

People often mistake tooth pain for cavities or more serious oral health issues when it's actually the result of infected and inflamed ear or sinus cavities. Here, we'll discuss how a sinus or ear infection can mask itself as a tooth problem or a cavity.

Your ears, nose, and throat are all connected, which means pain can easily radiate from one area to another. For example, both jaw and tooth pain can be a sign that something is wrong in your ear (or ears). Ear infections are often accompanied by symptoms such as earache, fever, dizziness, nausea, and tooth pain. Bacteria buildup causes ear infections, but it's not caused by bacteria that originates in your mouth or on your teeth. Brushing your teeth more won't get rid of jaw or tooth pain. Instead, the ear infection must subside, allowing the body to naturally alleviate the pain.

Sinus infections can also be mistaken for cavities. If you feel congested, your nose is clogged, and your teeth also hurt, this could be a sinus infection. The sinuses are hollow cavities in your face, and if mucus builds up in them during a cold or flu, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish. The maxillary sinuses are located near your upper molars, which is why it's easy to mistake sinus pain for tooth pain.

The good news is that your teeth should be fine, even if you have multiple ear or sinus infections that result in tooth pain. Often, these infections will resolve themselves on their own over time. The pain that results can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, including painkillers, saline sprays, or nasal decongestants, or even home remedies. Antibiotics may be required for persistent infections that do not resolve on their own, but because of overuse of antibiotics, doctors often take a “wait and see” approach first.

If you have tooth pain, particularly in your upper molars, your dentist can help you discover the cause. Keep in mind that your dentist may advise that you see a doctor instead if your teeth and gums look healthy and problem-free. Your problem may very well be sinusitis or an ear infection instead.

In conclusion, while tooth pain can be alarming, it's important to keep in mind that it may not be a cavity or tooth-related issue. Ear and sinus infections can often be the cause of tooth pain and should be properly diagnosed by a medical professional. By understanding the connection between different parts of the body, you can ensure that you receive the proper care and treatment for your symptoms. Stay healthy and happy this winter season!

Dental Associates of West Michigan

(616) 554-5940

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