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ENCINO, CA, June 23, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Everybody and his brother are reaching for tissues, eye drops and antihistamines to ward off the effects of pollen, mold and other seasonal allergy triggers. Some of America's 40 million sinusitis sufferers even have to resort to pain medicines to dull sinus-related headaches and tooth pain, says public health advocate Allan Melnick, a prominent clinical dentist in Encino, Calif.
"I have patients presenting with tooth pain, who don't realize it's linked to their sinus infection. They think they have a cavity, but the pain is actually a sinus 'plumbing' problem," says Dr. Melnick.
Pollen levels in the South have been "off the charts," reports Dr. Kevin Schaffer of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. Allergist Dr. Joseph Leija of Loyola University Health System's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in suburban Chicago says tree spore readings are the highest in three years, so he's had to issue air quality warnings. Dr. Charles Barnes of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., found pollen samples 10 times the normal spring reading with numbers in the 5000-8,000 particle range (per cubic meter of air) rather than the typical 500-800 particle count.
"This spring is a tough one," says Melnick. "While tree pollens are at moderate levels in California right now, wind, rain and flooding have boosted airborne pollen and mold to astronomical levels in other areas of the country. Those with chronic bronchitis, allergies, asthma and chronic sinus problems are suffering big time. Tooth pain just adds insult to injury."
Melnick, the senior dentist for FocusedCareDental.com, is spearheading a campaign to educate the public about sinusitis, its bothersome and sometimes dire symptoms, and how to minimize the suffering.
"Lots of people don't know that sinus problems can cause tooth pain," notes Melnick, a former UCLA dental professor. "I think it's important to educate people, so they can get adequate relief. The maxillary sinus cavity sits right above the top molars. The teeth and sinuses are like neighbors in adjacent condos; they share a common wall. What impacts one, is likely to have repercussions with the other."
Sinus symptoms include swollen or infected sinus cavities, leading to congestion for some and sneezing and drainage for others. Headache, watering eyes, itching, facial pressure, bad breath and aching teeth are often part of sinus attacks.
Four pairs of sinuses comprise the hollow nasal pathways surrounding the eyes, including the frontal, ethmoid, sphenoid and maxillary sinus canals, says Melnick. The maxillary sinus is most commonly related to dental complaints. Viruses, bacteria, fungus, smoke, structural anomalies or immune system issues may lead to acute or chronic sinusitis. Inflammation reduces air and mucus flow and increases pressure within the cavities. Infection may set in, he explained.
Over time chronic sinusitis may aggravate facial nerves and tooth roots, causing discomfort, facial neuralgia or worse. Bone, eye or brain infections may occur, according to the Mayo Clinic, and tooth fracture, tooth loss or perforated sinuses may develop. Cancerous growths have been known to cause sinusitis-like symptoms, too.
Determining the source of dental tooth pain in sinusitis patients involves completing a full medical history, tapping teeth to test for sensitivity, and taking X-rays to rule out other problems, says Melnick. Typically, more than one tooth will be sensitive if dental pain is linked to sinus congestion, according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. In chronic cases of sinusitis, a nasal smear, CT scan or other diagnostics may be appropriate.
Standard treatment for allergy and sinusitis include saline nasal washes, antihistamines, warm compresses to the face, analgesics, antibiotics, topical or oral decongestants, and steroids. A referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist or allergist may be necessary.
"Don't try to ride out the pain. Go see your doctor. Go see your dentist. Rule out an abscess, a cracked tooth, bruxism, TMJ or loose fillings. If it's an allergy or an infection, let's treat it. Get to the bottom of the pain, so you can live your life," says Melnick.
Dr. Allan Melnick Shares Tips to Fight Allergies
Limiting exposure to allergens is the best way to get sinusitis under control, says Melnick, who recommends the following tips from the California Department of Public Health.
- Limit outdoor time during allergy and fire season
- Bathe indoor-outdoor pets frequently
- Use a saline nasal rinse daily
- Wash your face and hair, especially before bed
- Use the air-conditioner and change filters often
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Hire someone to mow lawns and do landscaping
- Opt for wood or tile floors rather than carpet
- Keep indoor humidity between 40-60 percent
- Avoid cigarette smoke and other pollutants
"Keep your windows and doors closed," says Melnick. "Resist the spring fling - especially on beautiful mornings when allergens are at their highest. The pollen that's mucking up your car is clogging your airways, too."
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