ear infectionSnow is on the ground, and Christmas is right around the corner. It’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it’s also the time of year now when more people get sick with colds and flus. Many cold symptoms, such as coughing, nasal congestion, a fever, and muscle aches, are easily identified. Others, like tooth pain, sometimes confuse people. They mistake this pain for cavities or more serious oral health issues when it’s 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.

Ear and Sinus Infections

What are the symptoms of an ear infection? They are earache, fever, dizziness, nausea, and, yes, tooth pain. Your ears, nose, and throat are all connected, so it’s easy for pain to radiate out from one area into another one.  Both jaw and tooth pain can be a sign that something is wrong in your ear (or ears).

Bacteria build up is what causes ear infections, but it’s not caused by bacteria that originates in your mouth and on your teeth. You can’t get rid of jaw or tooth pain by brushing your teeth more. The ear infection must subside so that the pain the body sends as a sign that something is wrong goes away.

The same thing is true for sinus infections. It’s similarly easy to mistake a sinus infection for a cavity. If you feel congested or your nose feels 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 when you have a cold or the flu, this creates a great atmosphere for bacteria to flourish. The maxillary sinuses are located near your upper molars, and it’s very easy to mistake sinus pain for tooth pain.

The Cure for an Ear Infection or Sinusitis

The good news is that your teeth should be fine, even if you have multiple ear or sinus infections that result in tooth pain. As far as treatment goes, often these infections will resolve themselves on their own over time. The pain that results can be treated with over-the-counter medicines, including pain killers, 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, doctor 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 he may advise that you see a doctor instead if he sees that your teeth and gums look healthy and problem free. Your problem may very well be sinusitis or an ear infection instead.