The biggest sinus cavities are the maxillary sinuses. Your body has two maxillary sinuses, one located behind each cheek bone, running from beneath the eyes to right above the teeth on both sides of the nose. The maxillary sinuses drain into the nose through a passage located near the roof of the sinus. Because the drainage passage sits at the top of the sinus cavity, the maxillary sinuses drain poorly and are especially prone to infection. If you suffer to frequent sinus problems, ensuring maxillary sinus drainage is critical to treating sinus infections and preventing future ones.
Maxillary Sinus Drainage
So how do you encourage maxillary sinus drainage? The combination of a decongestant and cough suppressant I recommend in my article on Sinus Drainage can help, but it’s often ineffective by itself, especially when it comes to the maxillary sinuses. While these medicines can reduce inflammation and thin mucus to encourage drainage, they don’t fight gravity. Accordingly, most good ENTs will recommend daily sinus rinses for patients who suffer from frequent sinusitis.
How to Perform a Sinus Rinse - The best way to perform a sinus rinse is to use a nasal aspirator. I’ve found that the bulb-shaped aspirators work the best and are the cheapest. While neti pots work similarly, I’ve found that they don’t encourage maxillary sinus drainage as well as aspirators because they rely solely on gravity. Here are the steps I take:
- Create a Saline Solution – In a clean, microwave-safe glass or bowl, mix one cup of water with one teaspoon of iodine-free salt. Heat in the microwave until it’s warm, but not hot. I use tap water, but some people prefer to use distilled bottled water; I don’t think it makes much difference.
- Fill the Aspirator with the Solution – Squeeze the bulb of the aspirator and dip it into the glass. When you stop squeezing, the bulb will fill with water.
- Flush Your Sinuses – Stand over a sink. Tilt your head to one side and slightly back (only slightly back, about 15 degrees). Insert the tip of the aspirator into whichever nostril is higher (e.g. if you tilt your head to the right, your left nostril is higher). Squeeze the bulb of the aspirator with moderate force. If you get the proper angle, water will flow from the upper nostril, through the maxillary sinuses, and out the mouth and the lower nostril. If this makes you gag or hurts your ears, squeeze with less force at first and let the water come back out through your nose.
- Keep Rinsing Until Water Comes Out Clear – You should notice mucus draining out your mouth and lower sinus along with the water. Repeat this process on the same side until the water comes out clear and/or until you feel your sinus pressure on that side begin to ease.
- Switch to the Other Nostril - Once you’ve finished with one side, switch to the other to ensure maxillary sinus drainage from both maxillary sinuses.
- If You’re Sick - If you’re currently sick, it’s best to rinse 2-3 times daily until a few days after your symptoms subside. Even if your symptoms are gone, there may still be some bacteria left in your sinuses. Continue to flush out your sinuses to ensure the same infection doesn’t flare up again.
- If You’re Currently Feeling Well - Even if you’re feeling well, it’s still best to rinse your sinuses once per day if you suffer from frequent sinus issues. Rinsing daily helps keep inflammation from allergies and irritants down, ensuring the sinuses drain well.