If you’ve been knocked down by a common cold or suffered from body aches and a sore throat, you might have noticed a peculiar symptom – your teeth hurting. This strange addition to your pain roster can seem baffling and problematic, not to mention adding to your overall discomfort. So, why exactly does this happen? This widespread yet often disregarded issue of aching teeth during sickness warrants attention and understanding.

Let’s discuss more in detail the reasons for such discomfort and we will give helpful strategies to alleviate it.

Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I’m Sick?

Your teeth hurt when you’re sick primarily due to the sinus inflammation often experienced during illnesses. This then creates pressure around the upper teeth, leading to discomfort. Additionally, symptoms such as dry mouth, which is standard during sickness, can lead to cavities and tooth discomfort.

Sinus Infections and Sinus Pain

Engorged with bacteria, sinus infections often result in inflammation and congestion, particularly in your maxillary sinuses. These hollow cavities lurk directly above your upper teeth, and as sinus pressure builds, it can push down on the roots of your teeth, causing discomfort. This is especially true for an infected tooth, resulting in sharper pains.

Dry Mouth and Bacterial Infection

A common symptom when you’re unwell, be it an ear infection or the common cold, is dry mouth. Saliva is pivotal in cleaning your mouth, rinsing away food particles and prohibiting the growth of bacteria, which is integral for maintaining oral health. However, during sickness, your saliva production might diminish, resulting in a dry mouth and potentially leading to cavities, gum disease and tooth discomfort.


In bouts of illness, your body works hard to fight infections, which requires more water intake. If you don’t hydrate adequately, you could end up dehydrated. This dehydration can strain every part of your body, including your teeth and gums. The lack of ample water can reduce saliva production, which is necessary for washing away bacteria and keeping your mouth clean, leading to increased sensitivity, discomfort and pain in your teeth.

Viral or Bacterial Infections

Sometimes, a virus or bacterial infection can directly attack your oral health. For instance, the herpes simplex virus is known to cause painful sores in and around the mouth, making your teeth very sensitive. Bacterial infections, like strep throat, often cause inflammation in the mouth and throat region, which could manifest as pain spreading to your teeth, making them feel uncomfortable or painful.


Many illnesses come with an increased body temperature or fever. This is your body’s way of fighting disease, but a high internal temperature can cause inflammation in various tissues, including those in your mouth. This can lead to swelling, discomfort and pain in the gums, making your teeth feel sensitive and sore.


Some medications taken for various illnesses can also cause tooth discomfort. For example, antibiotics may lead to dry mouth as a side effect, which increases the risk of cavities and tooth sensitivity. Other meds like medication for allergies or colds can also have similar side effects, causing oral health issues that result in painful teeth.

Bad Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene might not be the top priority when battling an illness, but ignoring it can lead to more problems. Neglecting to brush and floss your teeth regularly can allow the buildup of plaque, which can irritate your gums and eventually lead to conditions like gum disease and cavities. Both conditions can cause severe tooth pain and discomfort and could be prevented with good oral hygiene.


During sickness, your body is under a lot of stress as it fights off illness. This can manifest in different ways, including tension in the jaw, which can cause headaches and teeth grinding. Teeth grinding can cause wear and tear on your teeth, leading to increased sensitivity and pain.

How to Tell if Tooth Pain Is Caused by Cavities or Common Cold

Toothaches can vary in cause, and it’s essential to determine whether your pain is due to an illness such as a common cold or a dental issue like a cavity. There are a few key differences between these two types of tooth pain which you can observe:

  • Duration of Pain. Generally, tooth pain caused by illness, like a cold or sinus infection, ends when you start getting better. On the contrary, tooth pain caused by cavities tends to persist and does not disappear as your health improves.
  • Specificity of Pain. Illness-related toothaches often affect many teeth, particularly those in the upper jaw, since this is closest to your sinuses. However, cavity-induced toothaches usually target a specific tooth, which is often identifiable.
  • Presence of Other Symptoms. If other symptoms of toothache such as fever, body aches, runny nose, or other cold-like symptoms accompany the tooth pain, it’s likely illness-related. The pain related to cavities doesn’t usually come along with such symptoms.
  • Response to Temperature. Sensitivity or pain in response to hot, cold or sweet food and drink is commonly associated with cavities. Pain caused by a cold or sinus infection generally isn’t affected by temperature or food consumption.
  • Visual Inspection. Using a mirror, look at the painful teeth. If you see a hole or dark spot on a tooth, it could indicate a cavity. On the other hand, if your teeth look normal, then the pain might be illness-related.

However, it’s crucial to remember that these are merely indicators. If you are unsure about the cause of your toothache, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with your dentist. They can provide a definitive diagnosis and suggest suitable treatment options.

Tips for Alleviating Tooth Discomfort When Sick

When you’re ill, dealing with tooth pain can add to the discomfort and make the situation more distressing. While professional medical help remains essential, there are some tips you can adopt to alleviate tooth pain during your recovery period:

  • Stay Hydrated. Dehydration can exacerbate dry mouth, which in turn, can result in tooth discomfort. Drinking plenty of fluids aids your healing process and promotes saliva production, vital for oral hygiene.
  • Opt for Soft Foods. During an illness, your teeth might become more sensitive than usual. Eating soft foods makes eating more comfortable and minimizes physical pressure on your teeth that could worsen the discomfort.
  • Maintain Your Oral Hygiene. Brushing and flossing may seem taxing when you’re not feeling well, but they are essential for removing plaque and food particles that can create or intensify toothache. Start slow if needed, but pay attention to these essential steps in oral care.
  • Use Saliva Substitutes. With a dry mouth, it is beneficial to use over-the-counter saliva substitutes. These temporarily relieve dry mouth symptoms and help moisten your oral cavity, potentially minimizing tooth discomfort.
  • Avoid Acidic Foods. Acidic foods can erode tooth enamel and aggravate tooth sensitivity. A simple change in your diet to avoid such foods when unwell can save you from subsequent dental pain.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers. If you’re struggling with notable tooth discomfort while sick, it’s crucial to seek relief to maintain your quality of life as you recover. Consider over-the-counter pain relievers, which can also alleviate symptoms of your illness, including managing dental pain.

Try implementing these tips when unwell, but always consult your dentist for severe or enduring tooth pain. Taking care of your dental health is equally important as your overall health.

When to Seek Professional Dental Care for Toothache When Sick

When you’re unwell, and your teeth start to ache, it can be a sign that you need more than rest and fluids. Determining when your toothache requires professional attention can be crucial. Here are a few indicators that it might be time to seek professional dental care:

  • Persistent Pain. If your toothache persists for over two days, visit a dentist. Even if the pain is not severe, its persistency could indicate a significant issue.
  • Worsening Pain. If the toothache steadily worsens or becomes severe, seeking immediate professional help is essential. Ignoring severe tooth pain can lead to further complications and may indicate a serious dental issue.
  • Sensitivity to Hot or Cold. If your toothache is accompanied by extreme sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, it could be a sign of tooth decay or nerve damage. A dental professional can evaluate the condition and provide appropriate treatment.
  • Swollen Gums or Face. Sometimes, a toothache could be accompanied by swelling in or around your mouth. This could indicate an infection and should be checked by a dentist immediately.
  • Fever, Earache, or Pain Upon Opening Your Mouth. These symptoms and a toothache could indicate an abscessed tooth, a severe dental condition requiring immediate professional attention.
  • Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing. Though rare, a toothache can sometimes become so severe that it causes difficulty breathing or swallowing. These are severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention.

Remember, it’s better to schedule an appointment with your dentist when in doubt. It’s always better to catch dental issues early before they become more serious.

Relieve Your Toothache When Sick With Our Professional Dental Care

Understanding why your teeth hurt when sick can help you take proactive steps to alleviate discomfort and maintain good dental health. By staying hydrated, practicing good oral hygiene and seeking appropriate relief measures, you can minimize the impact of tooth pain when you’re feeling under the weather. Remember, taking care of your dental health during sickness is crucial for your overall well-being.

Take charge of your dental health, even during sickness. Consult with a dental professional if you’re experiencing persistent tooth pain, and prioritize your oral hygiene routines to ensure a healthy smile for years.

If you’re dealing with persistent tooth pain, don’t put off seeking professional help. Reach out to Monadnock Dental Associates, where our experienced dentists use the latest technology to ensure optimal dental health. We prioritize patient needs and comfort, resulting in a personalized, stress-free experience.

Call us now to schedule an appointment!