When you get a toothache, it's natural to assume the problem is a cavity, sensitivity, or similar problems with your teeth. Though a toothache typically does indicate an oral health issue, it's not always the one you're thinking of. Here are two conditions that can cause tooth pain and how to handle them:
Many people don't realize this, but the back portion of the upper teeth sit right underneath the sinuses. The two areas are only separated by a membrane of tissues and nerves, so they can have a direct impact on each other. Specifically, a toothache can actually be a warning sign or the result of a sinus infection. The pain is typically due to the amount of pressure that builds up in the sinus cavity because of the swelling and congestion.
You can usually tell a sinus infection is the cause of tooth pain because the discomfort will focalize in the rear teeth. The pain may feel dull rather than sharp (because of the pressure) and may subside anytime you take medication to alleviate your congestion and other symptoms of infection.
There's not much you can do here except treat the underlying issue, which is the sinus infection. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever can help manage the pain until you get over the disease.
Your tooth pain may not be tooth pain at all, but rather jaw pain that feels as though it's coming from your teeth. The human body is a complex machine, and sometimes pain in one area will transfer to others and create confusion about its origin.
The jaw pain can be the result of temporomandibular disorders (TMDs), which are problems with the joints and muscles in the jaw that help you speak and chew. These are some of the most used muscles and joints in your body, so it's natural that—over time—they may begin to deteriorate or develop issues. TMDs can also develop due to trauma from impacts (e.g. a punch to the face) or poor teeth alignment.
People with TMD typically display other symptoms, such as:
- Clicking, popping, or cracking sounds when opening and closing the mouth
- The jaw becomes stuck open
- Pain or tenderness when opening your mouth wide, chewing, or speaking
- Headaches that start by the ear but spread to the rest of the head
TMDs are best diagnosed by a dentist or healthcare provider. Treatment for the condition will depend on what it is and may involve medication, orthodontic treatments, or surgery.
To learn more about these issues or assistance determining what may be causing your tooth pain, contact a dentist.