It happens all the time - a patient gets a root canal treatment and suddenly starts presenting with symptoms that sound like a sinus infection. There are potential causes of this but it all comes down to the very close location of the sinus lining to the upper teeth roots.
While some patients may think that a root canal has caused a sinus infection, this is not possible, as a root canal procedure eliminates bacteria. Read on to find out why you could have a sinus infection after a root canal and why it might not be a sinus infection at all.
How Tooth Infections Cause Sinusitis
Because your sinuses are located in a position that is extremely close to your upper teeth, bacteria from an upper tooth may pass into your sinus lining and lead to a sinus infection. This is not uncommon and is referred to as “sinusitis of dental origin”.
So, what does this have to do with root canals? A lot of people mistake their root canal procedure as the cause of their sinusitis when in reality, only the tooth infection can cause a sinus infection. If you have sinusitis after a root canal procedure, this could be because the root canal failed.
While root canals are 95% effective, failure does sometimes happen and this means that the infection has not been completely removed. The sinus infection may have also already been caused by the tooth infection before you sought root canal treatment, so even though we removed it from your tooth, the infection in your sinuses may still be there.
If the root canal failed, you may need root canal retreatment. If you believe you have sinusitis, you should see a doctor. They may prescribe you antibiotics to help you fight off the infection.
The most common cause of sinusitis symptoms following root canal therapy isn’t actually a sinus infection at all - but it can cause similar symptoms. This is known as sinus communication.
As previously mentioned, your sinuses are located very close to your upper teeth. If you received a root canal, your dentist may have accidentally punctured your sinus lining, resulting in a hole in your sinus lining.
Sinus communication usually causes mild symptoms such as runny nose, post-nasal drip, congestion, and pressure or pain in the sinuses. Thankfully, this issue typically resolves itself without the need for treatment, as long as the hole doesn’t exceed 4 mm.
However, if you have severe pain that does not go away or becomes worse, the hole may be too big to resolve itself and you should seek treatment right away.
Know the Difference Between Sinus Communication & Infection
While it's good to know that a root canal cannot cause a sinus infection, you'll need to be prepared to differentiate between sinusitis and sinus communication. While you could have sinusitis as a result of a tooth infection or failed root canal, these symptoms are most commonly caused by an accidental puncture of the sinus lining.
Listen to your body. If you have severe or persistent symptoms that do not resolve, you should contact your dentist and your doctor. In the instance that your root canal has failed, we can explore your options. Contact us at ARTSCI dental today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nguyen.