Human sinuses are broken into four groups known collectively as the paranasal sinuses. These four groups are: maxillary, frontal, sphenoid and ethmoids. All four are located in the bones of our skulls, but they are also attached to the nose. When one of them becomes infected it can affect more than just the nasal passages. It can cause pain and swelling in the eyes, face, or jaw. For example, the maxillary sinuses; which are located beneath the eyes and also in the facial cheekbones on the side of the nose, can cause jaw pain when they become infected.
If the nose is the air conditioner of the body, as stated by the Baylor College of Medicine in their article entitled, "Review of Anatomy - Nose and Paranasal Sinuses" (see Resources), than some might assume that sinuses serve as the nose's filters. If so, it might be assumed that these four filters--located in four different parts of the skull--would be responsible for removing dirt and germs from the air we breathe.
Sinus Misconception and Infection
However, there is no medically recognized function assigned for human sinuses, even the aforementioned filter possibility. And, in fact, speculation about the purposes of sinuses includes the possibility that they are actually needed for voice regulation or skull weight reduction.
But in spite of the lack of a definitive reason for the existence of these four air-filled cavities found in the skull of the human body, very few can ignore the symptoms they experience when one or more of the sinuses becomes infected.
Infection and the Sinus Types
An infection in the ethmoid sinus group, located between both eyes, is less troublesome to successfully treat with antibiotics than the sphenoid group (which occupies the same general area, much deeper in the skull). But both produce similar symptoms: a nagging headache, swollen eyes, and pain or discomfort in the eye or facial area, as well as other sinusitis symptoms.
The frontal sinus group, which sits above the eyebrows on the forehead, is also easily treated with antibiotics and shares similar symptoms of sinusitis. But the last group, the maxillary group--located beneath the eye and alongside the nose, in the cheek areas on both sides of the face--has a symptom that is uniquely its own: jaw pain.
Maxillary Sinus Infection and Jaw Pain
When an individual starts experiencing pain in their jaw (especially the upper jaw), or in their teeth or cheeks, it may be due to the maxillary sinuses being infected. The maxillary sinuses, and their relative physical proximity to the upper jaw area, can play a significant role in this type of pain.
The maxillary sinuses occupy the space directly above the upper teeth and directly beneath the eyes; therefore, when they become infected swelling can occur in the entire cheek area. This swelling applies pressure to both the eye area as well as the upper jaw area, greatly restricting movement without complications and pain. Such a tight and constant pressure affects the jaw as it attempts to chew food and open and close for communication purposes.
Sometimes it is an infection in the mouth, due to dental cavities or other bacteria, which result in jaw pain and sinusitis. Therefore, even though an individual may be diagnosed with sinusitis and be experiencing jaw pain, both conditions could actually be the result of an undiagnosed dental problem. Therefore, if jaw pain and sinusitis continues to be an ongoing problem even after treatment with antibiotics, a visit to the dentist might be needed.