Toothache At Night: Why It Happens & 12 Must-Know Tips To Help Pain

a woman putting cold compress on her face

Having toothache is one of the most uncomfortable and painful experiences you can go through. This is primarily because having a toothache goes beyond just your teeth aching; it affects every other part of your body. Headache, body pain, loss of appetite, and loss of sleep are some other symptoms that come with this pesky pain.

Most people who have had toothaches at one point or the other in their lives have mentioned how much they dreaded the sun going down because it seems that their toothache only worsens at night.

However, could this be true? Does toothache really worsen at night? And if it does, why?

Read on to get the answers to these questions, as well as helpful tips on how you can relieve this annoying pain.

Disclaimer: Although we share tips here, as always, you must consult your doctor or dentist and ask their opinion about what is right for you, as every individual case differs.

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What Causes Toothache at Night?

After a long day, sleeping and relaxing on your bed is the only thought reverberating through your head. However, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you find out that you can’t enter sleep-land because of a nagging pain in your mouth.

You start wondering if you suddenly developed a toothache; after all, you didn’t feel the pain at all during the day.

Not to worry, your toothache isn’t the result of some mysterious night-time manifestation; the reason you notice the pain more visibly at night may be because of the following reasons.

1. Increase In Blood Flow

According to a study supported by The National Institute of Health, it has been confirmed that there is always an increase in the blood flowing through our blood vessels when we lay down to sleep.

This phenomenon is one of the numerous explanations as to why your toothache worsens at night. This is because laying down causes more blood to rush into parts of our body, such as our mouth.

This increase in blood flow will inadvertently make your gums and teeth more sensitive, thus making it feel like the toothache – that was previously not very noticeable during the day –  has worsened.

On the other hand, you might not feel any pain during the day because you’re mostly sitting down or standing up – and positions like that will not cause blood to pool in your mouth.

woman sleeping

2. Grinding Your Teeth

Another reason you may be experiencing toothache at night is that you grind your teeth during sleep.

This is not an uncommon occurrence, and it is estimated that about 10 to 15% of the world’s population experience it daily.

Medically known as bruxism,  this condition can be mild or serious. However, regardless of its severity, it can lead to toothaches, jaw pain, and gum pain. If you think this is something you have, then consult a healthcare practitioner.

3. Fewer Distractions

Some people are quick to notice toothache at night because they have fewer distractions and thoughts at night.

During the day, the pain would most likely be present too. However, because of the daily hustle and bustle, you may not feel it intensely because your mind is preoccupied with other things.

But as you finish your activities for the day and you finally get into bed to get some shut eyes, the pain may seem more pronounced because you now have fewer distractions, thus making you more intensely aware of it.

It might feel like the pain worsened, but in reality, it’s still the same level of pain, just that you now have time to listen to your body properly.

4. Food Wedged In Between Your Teeth

If you have been dealing with a prior toothache, food particles from dinner wedged between your teeth may apply more pressure on the area and make the pain more unbearable.

The reason you might not feel it as much during the day (even if you have food particles wedged in your mouth) may be because, during the day, you’re actively talking, and your mouth is not in a resting position which will not make you feel the pain as intensely.

5. Brushing Too Hard At Night

Without a doubt, it is good hygiene to brush one’s teeth after dinner, however, brushing your teeth too hard or too vigorously may be what is causing your toothache at night.

When we subject our teeth to vigorous brushing, we may unknowingly hurt our gums and teeth, which may give rise to pain.

young woman cleaning teeth in bathroom

6. Cavities

The unlikely culprit for the disturbances and pain you’re going through at night may be a cavity that you may or not be aware of.

Cavities are usually painful, and one thing about them is that they do not have a specific pattern for hurting. The pain can come up anytime. So, if you’ve been having recurring pains, especially in your gums, it might be a sign to see your dentist and have your mouth checked.

7. Using Toothpicks Or Sharp Objects To Remove Food Pieces

It is not uncommon to find food pieces stuck into one’s teeth after eating. Using a piece of dental floss is the ideal option in situations like that. However, there may be other situations that may warrant you using other things to pick your teeth.

If care is not taken and objects with pointed ends are used to pick the teeth, they may end up puncturing the gums, which may cause bleeding and toothaches.

woman with red lipstick smiling

Other Health Conditions That Can Cause Toothaches

1. Abscess Tooth

This is a result of a bacterial infection. It is when the roots or gum surrounding a particular tooth becomes filled with a pocket of pus.

2. Cavities

Commonly known as tooth decay, cavities occur a when hole forms in a tooth. If left untreated, they usually become bigger and can cause intense toothache.

3. Gingivitis

Gum disease is usually signified by swollen, red, and bleeding gums. In its early stages, it may cause mild toothaches, however as it becomes more serious, it can develop into more severe toothaches

4. Impacted Tooth

Impacted teeth are teeth that do not erupt fully through the gum. Having an impactful tooth can cause sharp, dull, or aching toothache.

Now that you know some common reasons why toothache worsens or happens at night, we’ll discuss tips on relieving the pain caused by such toothaches.

dentist checking on a patient s teeth

Tips To Relieve Toothache At Night

1. Use Pain Medication

There are different varieties of pain relief medicine you can take to give you some form of reprieve from the pain. You can easily get OTC (over the counter) pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen at a nearby pharmacy.

However, these OTC pain relief medications may only work for mild cases, for severe cases, you may need to visit your dentist to recommend a stronger one for you.

You can take the medication immediately after dinner so that it will have kicked in by the time you’ll want to sleep.

2. Sleep In An Elevated Position

One of the common reasons why toothaches worsen at night is because blood pools in the mouth when you lie down. This will usually cause the teeth to become more sensitive, thus aggravating the pain.

An easy way to reduce this is to sleep in a position that will keep your head in an elevated position. You can achieve this by piling up pillows beneath your head or at your upper back.

3. Use Medicated Ointments

You can apply medicated ointments to the affected area to provide some form of relief. Most of them are available as over-the-counter drugs and will help numb the area to decrease sensitivity.

It would be best if you went for ointments or gels that contain benzocaine because they are more effective. However, they should not be used by young children and toddlers.

4. Use A Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress can provide much-needed relief to the toothache you’re dealing with.

You can get a couple of ice cubes from the refrigerator, put them into a towel and then use them to gently massage the area with the toothache.

By using a cold compress on the affected area, you will be constricting the blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the area, which will, in turn, decreases how sensitive the area will be.

a woman putting cold compress on her face

5. Avoid Acidic, Cold Or Hard Meals Before Bed

Some meals contain ingredients that can aggravate the pain you’re feeling. Especially meals that contain a high amount of acid, very hot or cold meals, or hard meals.

You should try your best to avoid eating these types of meals before you go to bed.

6. Use Mouthwash

Mouthwash containing alcohol can provide temporary relief to the affected area. The mouthwash will help to provide a cooling effect as well as help numb the area.

Mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide can also prove helpful. This is because hydrogen peroxide has been proven to be effective in treating various conditions such as periodontitis, bleeding gum, loose teeth, and so on that can cause toothaches.

7. Wear A Mouth Guard

If the cause of your toothache is down to grinding (bruxism), you can always get a mouth guard to wear every night. There are over-the-counter ones available at pharmacies, or you can talk to your dentist about getting a customized one that will fit you perfectly.

8. Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Several health conditions such as sinusitis, cavities, gum disease, and others can cause toothaches, and those can usually trace their roots back to bad oral hygiene.

Practicing good oral hygiene such as brushing twice daily, flossing after every meal, using mouthwash, and so on can help prevent these conditions and keep you from being disturbed by toothaches at night.

close up shot of a person brushing her teeth

Home Remedies For Treating Toothaches

1. Clove Oil

Several studies have been carried out to confirm the claim that clove oil can work for toothaches. Most of these studies had positive conclusions.

Clove oil contains eugenol, a natural anesthetic and anti-inflammatory compound that will help numb the pain and reduce the swelling and sensitivity in the affected area.

So, if you’re in a situation where you can’t venture out to get topical or oral relief from a pharmacy for your toothache, if you have a bottle or vial of clove oil at your disposal, you could use it.

To use clove oil for toothache, simply dab a ball of cotton wool with some amount of clove oil and place it on the affected area in your mouth.

2. Rinse With Salt Water

If the meals you cook at dinner are the culprits responsible for aggravating your toothache, rinsing your mouth with a salt solution may prove helpful.

Saltwater has mild antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, which is why it is used in post-surgical treatments.

Rinsing your mouth with salt water after dinner will help you get rid of food particles that may have in between your teeth. It’ll also help you rinse out bacteria-causing infections that may worsen the pain.

We’ve written about the benefits of rinsing with salt water previously.

3. Use Peppermint Tea

Some types of tea have been used since ancient times to relieve toothaches. This can be linked to their astringent and numbing properties.

After dinner, you can take a cup of peppermint tea to help you combat the toothache you’re feeling. Swish each gulp around your mouth for some minutes before swallowing or spitting it out. You can also soak the tea bag in warm water and dab it on the affected areas.

4. Ginger Cayenne Paste

If you have some ginger and cayenne at home, you can use them to make a homemade paste. However, most people aren’t fans of this paste because of how hot it is.

To make the paste, simply mix ginger and cayenne in equal amounts and add water.

Toothache At Night: Wrapping Up

While many people may think that the claim that toothaches seem to worsen at night is a myth, as we show here, such claims aren’t mythical and even have some scientific backing.

Having a toothache is not a pleasant feeling, much more so when it rears up or worsens when you need to get some rest.

If the pain persists, it is highly recommended that you visit a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment.