Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Move My Head Or Ride On The Bus?

Quite a few things can make your teeth hurt: pressure – if you have an infection, a loose filling or a cracked tooth; temperature – if you have decay, receded gums or a broken tooth; and movement – often if there is nothing wrong with your teeth or gums.

Usually when head movements or, in severe cases, vibrations cause you dental pain, it's because you have sinus problems. These problems are classified as ‘Sinusitis’.

The sinuses are hollows in the cheek bones that give your voice its resonant quality. There’s one each side below your eye. The sinuses produce small amounts of fluid to keep them flushed out. This fluid drains into your nose and joins the normal mucus production so that you're not even aware of it - until something happens that stops it draining. Then the fluid builds up in your sinuses and you get pain.

There are many reasons why your sinuses might not be able to drain. The most common is following a head cold. The cold virus causes the lining of your nose to swell and produce more mucus (runny nose) This swelling can squeeze the holes through which the sinuses drain closed so the fluid can’t escape.

Other causes of sinus problems include polyps – otherwise harmless growths that block the drainage holes; infection from part of a tooth root that was accidentally pushed into the sinus during an extraction; or sometimes a sinus develops with the drainage hole not at the bottom, so some fluid always remains behind.

Your teeth hurt because the nerves to some of the upper ones run in the floor of the sinus and if trapped fluid is sloshing around against then, it stimulates the nerves and causes pain.

A sure way to check if this is what's causing your problem is to walk heavily down some steps. Does that hurt? Nod your head forward. Does that cause the pain? If so, you have sinus congestion.

Try nasal decongestants. There's a wide range of these available from any pharmacy. Some are in tablet or capsule form and some have to be inhaled. A combination of both usually works best. Ask the pharmacist for advice.

If that doesn't improve things, you should ask your dentist to refer you to a specialist to investigate clearing the blockage.

For more information about looking after your mouth, check out

Watch Your Mouth, An Owner's Manual 

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Comments 6 comments

Jon 6 years ago

Wow, thank you so much! This is exactly what I have. All the pieces come together: the head cold, the stuffy nose, and the pain from quick head movements. Great description, too; it reads just like how a doctor would explain it. Perfect! I can honestly say that this posting has helped at least one person. Thank you for putting my mind at ease (the uncertainty surrounding the cause of my upper molar pain was driving me crazy).


A. D. 5 years ago

I agree with the previous comment. Thanks so much! I am just getting over a cold, and I have a stuffy nose/ sinus infection. I never knew this could cause my back teeth (molars) to hurt, so I was worried when they started hurting. This all makes sense now. Thanks!


SR 2 years ago

Ditto to the people above! I started having pain while walking yesterday, and it has progressed today to the point that I can't bend my head forward without pain. I just got over a cold last week... So glad it's not teeth problems! I'll be getting some decongestants on my way home from work!


Vladimir 2 years ago

Thank you so much! I was so afraid that I might have a problem with gums, or bad teeth or stuff like that, but it actually seems this is it, all the causes and symptoms match! I will, though, have a word with my doctor just in case. Thanks.


Johne420 2 years ago

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anon 17 months ago

Wow, thank you thank you! This morning I started having pain in one of my upper teeth while walking around. I've always had a lot of dental problems, so I afraid I had a bad cavity or something else happening. But you just helped me so much. At the end when you said to nod the head forward - I thought surely that wouldn't cause the same pain caused by my walking - but it did, and was actually WORSE. It's a relief knowing this is caused only by the congestion from my allergies. :D

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