Why your teeth hurt when you have a cold

Share this article

As if being sick isn’t enough of a drag, suffering from tooth pain can make being sick that much worse.

As if being sick isn’t enough of a drag, suffering from tooth pain can make being sick that much worse.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 5 to 20% of Americans get the flu every year and suffer from 1 billion colds annually.¹

On top of the discomfort of endless coughing, sneezing and nighttime congestion, many Americans also experience tooth pain or gum pain when they have a cold.

A background decorative of Blue color

Most of the time, tooth pain or gum pain when you’re sick isn’t an indicator of anything serious.

But lasting or severe tooth pain when you’re under the weather could be a sign of a sinus or ear infection. Tooth tenderness or gum tenderness or pain when you have a cold could be because of a few reasons. And knowing when to see the doctor can help you find relief sooner than later.

Tooth pain causes when you have a cold

From sinus pressure to dry mouth, here are the reasons why your teeth may hurt when you have a cold, and how to find relief.

Sinus pressure

When you have a cold, your sinus cavities can get blocked with excess mucus.²

Since you have sinus cavities near your upper molars, this pressure can make your teeth sore.

To relieve the pressure, you can place a warm, damp towel around your nose, cheeks, and eyes.

If the pain is lasting or persistent, consult with your doctor to see if you may have a sinus or ear infection.

Dry mouth

Nasal congestion is a common side effect of having a cold. This congestion could cause you to breathe through your mouth more often, which can dry out your teeth, gums, and lips.

Coughing can also contribute to dry, irritated teeth and gum tissue. And since saliva is one of your mouth’s most powerful defenses against tooth decay, a dry mouth while you’re sick can lead to more plaque build-up on your teeth.

Be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re sick to stay hydrated and relieve dry mouth and irritated gums.

Decongestants and painkillers can also cause dry mouth, so be sure to follow all medications with a glass of water.

Sinus or ear infection

Although tooth pain when you’re sick typically doesn’t mean anything serious, your toothache could be a symptom of a sinus infection.³

Symptoms include lasting pain or pressure in the upper molars near your sinus cavity.

If your toothache is persistent, contact your dentist to ensure the pain isn’t a sign of something else, like teeth grinding or an underlying medical issue.

Tooth pain on top of your other cold or flu symptoms is a recipe for misery. And certain medications you’re using to treat your illness (or your other medications) could be causing you oral health issues. 

If you have concerns about your dental insurance coverage, it is important to review your policy. If you are suffering from sinus pressure, dry mouth, or a sinus infection, contact your primary care physician.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.


Insights for the people.

Join our new digital insurance community that includes tips, resources and useful information from Guardian Direct.


  1. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/flu/indepth (Last accessed December 2019)

  2. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/colds.html (Last accessed December 2019)

  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/expert-answers/toothache/faq-20058299 (Last accessed December 2019)