I just saw a friend post something on Facebook about a nasty sinus infection and my first patient came in this morning with a phantom tooth pain….I knew it must be a sign to write this little “Did you know?”
This time of year with it’s really weird weather changes, warm to cold, extreme colds, cold to warm again…trigger all kinds of sinus issues. Combine that with all the virus and bacterial infections flying around it just is a recipe for sinus infections.
- Acute sinusitis (sinus infection): Viruses or bacteria infect the sinus cavity, causing inflammation. Increased mucus production, nasal congestion, discomfort in the cheeks, forehead or around the eyes and headaches are common symptoms.
The purpose of the sinuses is unclear. One theory is that sinuses help humidify the air we breathe in; another is that they enhance our voices. You’re upper jaw (maxilla) actually houses you’re maxillary sinus.
If you’re sinus infection is bad enough, it can even cause you’re teeth to hurt. Some of the roots from your upper teeth are actually reaching up into the upper maxillary sinus.
These two dental radiographs (X-rays) really highlight the relationship between the floor of your sinus and the roots of your upper teeth. The first image shows the expanse of the sinus, the second shows how those roots are right there next to the floor of that sinus. In some individuals the roots of those teeth are actually in the sinus with a very thin layer of bone over them.
Sometimes patients come in with a tooth pain we’ll say in their upper right side. They may or may not specify a particular tooth.
Some of my first questions for these patients really have more to do about the pain they are having. Duration, frequency, intensity, location. From there we usually do a thorough dental exam of the area. I’ll check for failing restorations, fractures, presence of gum disease. We percuss (gently tap on your teeth) to see if that elicits any discomfort. We will usually take some radiographs to verify or rule out those previously stated conditions as well a chronic tooth or gum related infection. If nothing shows up…I’m almost positive it’s sinus related.
I palpate and percuss the sinuses and sometimes we get a discomfort right then and there. Even if we don’t, we usually recommend some sinus rinsing with a Neti Pot or something similar….and a visit to a primary care physician.
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve diagnosed sinus infections and most patients despite their discomfort are smiling when they leave!
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