Toothaches can hurt plenty during the daylight hours. But if you think your toothache hurts a lot when the sun is shining, just wait until the sun goes down for the night!
Why do toothaches hurt so bad at night? It can be a combination of how you sleep, what you ate before bed, and the fact that there is literally nothing else for you to focus on.
Read further to find out how to mitigate this pain so you can get a good night’s sleep!
Why Do Toothaches Get So Bad At Night?
The number one reason why toothaches get so bad at night is a simple lack of distraction, as the respected Cleveland Clinic points out.
With your whole mind focused on one goal – falling asleep – anything that could keep you awake becomes more noticeable. And toothache pain is definitely something that can keep you awake at night!
However, there are other reasons as well and we will discuss these in the sections to follow here.
What Can Cause A Toothache?
At its simplest, a toothache is simply an achy tooth, or the perception of a painful tooth. But what can cause your tooth to ache?
As Health explains, these are among the most common reasons that you may develop a toothache.
- Food particles stuck in the gums or between the teeth.
- Gum infection.
- Filling problem (crack, disintegration).
- Teeth grinding (especially at night).
- Misaligned bite.
- New teeth coming in (such as adult teeth or wisdom teeth).
- Teeth falling out.
- Loose teeth.
- Constant repetitive motion (like chewing gum).
- Biting too hard on something (like ice or candy).
- Damage to the living nerve of the tooth.
- Thin enamel.
- Pain or stiffness in the jaw (such as with TMJ syndrome).
- Sinus infection.
- Gingivitis or periodontal disease.
- Sports injury or fall.
- Tenderness after dental work or a cleaning.
- Gums are receding.
Remember, not all toothaches are “real” toothaches. Tooth pain can arise for any number of reasons. Before you panic, consider what might have preceded the tooth pain to think about all the possible underlying causes.
When in doubt, always call your dentist first thing in the morning to seek guidance.
Why Is A Toothache Worse At Night In Bed?
These are the main reasons why your toothache pain may worsen at night.
Anatomy and blood flow
The first and most common reason that toothache pain often seems worse at night is because you are lying down!
When you are awake, typically your body has to work harder to pump the blood throughout your body so the circulatory system achieves equal blood distribution at best.
But at night when you are lying prone, more blood flows to your head. This may be good for healing but can be bad for pain perception.
Eating late can create more night time toothache pain for two key reasons. First, you are exercising your jaw and putting more pressure on your teeth right before you lay down and all that fresh blood rushes to your head.
And second, if you eat or drink anything very hot, very cold, very spicy or sugary, these types of food choices can increase gum and tooth sensitivity even for people who don’t have a toothache.
According to the Sleep Foundation, bruxism (tooth grinding) is more common when people are young.
If you grind your teeth at night – at any age – you can easily bite down with up to 250 pounds of force! This is enough to wear down healthy teeth and make them ache.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average person may change sleeping positions anywhere from three to 36 times in a given night.
This means that even if you carefully position yourself so as to not aggravate the tender tooth, you will very likely change positions during the night. This can place extra pressure on your jaw and teeth or trigger bruxism.
If you go to bed without a lot of toothache pain but your pain wakes you up in the middle of the night, pay attention to what side you are laying on.
How Can You Help The Pain At Home?
In the middle of the night, it might seem there is not much you can do to ease the pain of your toothache.
But waiting until morning so you can call your dentist for guidance doesn’t feel very workable either.
Do you have anything else you can try? In this section we look at how you can ease the toothache pain you are experiencing with things you probably already have on hand.
Application of a cold pack can constrict the blood flow, easing swelling and inflammation.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help to ease inflammation and lessen pain. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions.
Salt water gargle
Salt water has a sanitizing, anti-bacterial impact. Gargle with warm salt water for a soothing rinse. My mom swears by this one.
Hydrogen peroxide and water gargle
Hydrogen peroxide should be mixed with water in an equal parts solution. Do NOT use this solution with children.
Elevate with a pillow
Elevating your head with an extra pillow can help direct blood flow away from the painful area.
Raw garlic chew
If you can tolerate it, chewing raw garlic near the painful area releases allicin, a beneficial natural chemical in garlic that eases pain.
Warm peppermint tea contains menthol, which has its own cooling and pain-relieving effect.
Cloves contain eugenol, a natural analgesic (numbing and pain relieving). Adults can rub a whole clove near the pain site but children should drink tea.
Medicated ointments and creams may help ease the pain of a toothache.
When Should You See A Dentist About The Pain?
When the pain of a toothache is severe enough to interfere with your sleep or with your normal daily activities, it is time to give your dentist a call.
No matter what the cause, serious tooth pain rarely resolves on its own. You don’t want to wait until the pain worsens into a true health emergency.
The information in this article will help you ease toothache pain sufficiently to fall back asleep at night. But in the morning be sure to call your dentist for guidance to keep the toothache from getting worse.