Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Have A Cold?

By Dr. Christopher Li

January 19, 2021

ear infection, sinus infection, teeth pain, tooth pain during a cold, toothache

Adults suffer from an average of two to three colds each year. Symptoms can last from seven to ten days. Colds and flu are miserable enough without added symptoms like tooth pain. While it might seem odd that a common ailment like a cold or the flu can also cause discomfort in your mouth, there are some interesting reasons colds and teeth are related. So, “Why do my teeth hurt when I have a cold?” Here’s what you need to know about colds, flu, and teeth, with tips to help you cope.

Cold And Flu Symptoms

The common symptoms of cold and flu include:cold-and-flu-symptoms-why-do-my-teeth-hurt-when-i-have-a-cold-Etobicoke-Dentist

  • Fever or feeling feverish / chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Feeling tired

The main difference between the two is that you tend to have a stuffed/runny nose with a cold, and the feelings of flu usually include fever and achiness.

The Trouble With Nasal Congestion

A big contributor to teeth pain during a cold is nasal congestion. We’ve all been there. Trying to sleep and rest with a stuffed nose can make you feel like you’re suffocating. As a result, your natural reaction is to try breathing through your mouth. When you do this, your mouth gets dry. Your dry mouth lacks proper saliva flow which can be made even worse when you are taking typical over the counter drugs for your symptoms, like decongestants and antihistamines.nasal-congestion-dry-mouth-why-do-my-teeth-hurt-when-i-have-a-cold-Li-Family-Dental

Dry mouth can make it easier for bacteria to grow which in turn increases the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Therefore it’s very important to stay hydrated when you have a cold. Dry mouth can also make your throat feel sore and make it hard to chew and swallow. This can cause you to want to avoid food and drink which can interfere with the healing process. To avoid all these issues, you can:

  • Take Decongestants: Use nasal decongestants to keep your nasal passages as clear as possible. Although they can contribute to dry mouth, clear breathing will avoid making it worse when you breathe through your mouth.
  • Water: Make sure you sip water continuously to keep your mouth lubricated.
  • Sugar-Free Cough Drops: Another good tip is to suck sugar-free cough drops as they can help keep saliva flow healthy. It also helps moisten your throat and soothe discomfort.
  • Saline Nasal Spray: Nasal sprays offer an excellent way to reduce congestion and the risk of sinus infection. They are also a natural way to keep nasal passages and sinuses clear.
  • Hot Showers: Hot showers produce steam that can help loosen build-up in the sinuses so you can blow out mucous into a tissue.

These tips not only correct dry mouth but will also make you feel better in general.

Sinus Pain And Toothaches

Now about the tooth pain. When your sinuses are inflamed due to a cold or flu, it can also cause pain in your upper teeth. When this happens, you might have developed a sinus infection called sinusitis. This can happen due to the cold virus or because you have a bacterial infection. One of the symptoms of sinusitis is pain and pressure in your upper back teeth. This is because they are closest to your sinuses. Some other signs your tooth pain is related to your cold or a sinus infection are:sinus-pressure-tooth-pain-why-do-my-teeth-hurt-when-i-have-a-cold-Li-Etobicoke

  • Thick yellow/green mucous discharge from the nose
  • Discharge dripping into the throat (post-nasal drip)
  • Throat pain
  • Pressure in the eyes, nose, and cheeks
  • Reduced sense of taste and smell
  • Headache

Generally, if you experience pain in all your upper back teeth, it is a sign your pain is related to your sinuses. However, if it is very troubling you can speak to our team to rule out the possibility it is in fact tooth-related. Just keep in mind if it is a sinus infection and it becomes serious you will need antibiotics.

Ear Infection And Tooth Pain

Your sinuses are not the only areas vulnerable to infection when you have a cold. Your ears can also become infected. When this happens you can experience lasting pain or pressure in the upper molars just like you would with a sinus infection. Signs of an ear infection include:ear-infection-tooth-pain-why-do-my-teeth-hurt-when-i-have-a-cold-Li-Family-Dental

  • Temperature of 38C or above
  • Hearing difficulty
  • Ear discharge
  • A feeling of pressure in your ear(s)
  • Itching and irritation inside your ear(s)
  • Crusty skin or build up around the ear(s)

Ongoing pain in your teeth or jaw when you have a cold or flu is most likely related to an ear or sinus infection.

Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Have A Cold? Tips To Avoid Dental Issues

When you have a cold or flu you probably aren’t thinking about oral care. However, when you can, try to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Brush Your Teeth: Although it’s the last thing on your mind, continue to brush your teeth twice a day to assist in keeping your mouth moist.brush-teeth-drink-water-why-do-my-teeth-hurt-when-I-have-a-cold-Etobicoke-Dentist
  • Peroxide-Free and Alcohol-Free Mouthwashes: You can also rinse and gargle with mouthwashes to help prevent dry mouth and also kill germs in your mouth and throat.
  • Drink Water: Stick to water to stay hydrated because drinking sugary drinks like pop or sports drinks helps bacteria growth which can lead to tooth decay.
  • Sugar-Free Lozenges: As mentioned above, choose sugar-free cough drops and throat lozenges. Otherwise, it’s just as bad as chewing on candy.
  • Rinse After Vomiting: If you experience vomiting, don’t brush your teeth right away. Instead, rinse your mouth out well with water and spit it out to remove harmful acids that can lead to tooth decay. After 30 minutes you can then brush.
  • Replace Your Toothbrush: Buy a new toothbrush once you are feeling better as the bristles can still harbour bacteria and germs from your sickness.
  • Clean Your Cup: Make sure you also change the cup you used in the bathroom while you were ill.

Since you can be ill for over a week from a cold or flu, it is best to try to keep up with your normal dental regime as much as possible.

If you have concerns about your oral health during cold and flu season, give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Dr. Christopher Li; Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years of experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.Dr. Chris and his team have built an exceptional dental clinic serving The Queensway, Etobicoke, Toronto and surrounding areas.

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