Toothache at Night: the Whys and What-to-Dos

Toothache is difficult to ignore: be it sharp, dull or severe, it indicates there is no excuse for postponing your visit to the dentist’s – and the closer the medical facility, the better. It is especially worrisome if the pain strikes at night. Why do teeth hurt when it’s time for sweet dreams? And what remedies are there which can help you wait till the dawn breaks?

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Why at night?

While it is cavities that are usually behind toothaches, there may be other reasons why a tooth hurts. Some pesky sinus infection or trigeminal neuralgia may be to blame too. However, pulpitis and cavities are often the likely culprits. Teeth can ache regardless of part of the day it is, but if the pain grows stronger at night, it can be explained by the following factors:
  • Bruxism. The term denotes grinding your teeth while asleep. The strain and pressure cause the already affected tooth to ache. The condition itself may be indicative of health problems, so if you are told that you grind your teeth or your child does it, it might be a good idea to consult a professional.
  • Increased blood flow. As sleeping usually involves lying down (well, sleeping when seated is another thing, but we are not talking about snoozing in a bus here!), blood flow to the head increases. The increased pressure in your mouth may cause throbbing or exacerbate it.
  • Another reason related to teeth grinding is that you could actually have been doing it during the day (say, due to some stress or being concentrated on something), and now, when you are relaxing, the strain you had been putting on the jaw makes you feel pain.
  • The food you have eaten today may also be to blame: small particles can be lodged between teeth. Even healthy teeth do not like it, to say nothing of those with cavities – these sensitive areas tend to ache when exposed to sweet, hot or cold substances. The way out is to remember to brush your teeth thoroughly.
  • The last but not the least is focusing on the pain more due to not having anything else to do except for lying and feeling it. Before bedtime, you had many things to be distracted by, and now that you are focused on your teeth, it feels as if the pain has become stronger.
Image Credit: / Elena Elisseeva

Emergency toothache relief

If there is no dentist working round-the-clock in your area, you will have to wait till the morning. To relieve your pain, you can try doing the following:
  • Brush your teeth, and do not forget to floss them too. By doing so, you will remove the particles lodged in sensitive areas with cavities.
  • Soak a piece of cotton in clove oil and apply it to the tooth that is aching. If it’s a cavity behind the pain, the method may help.
  • Try to sleep with your head elevated: use more pillows or put something under the one you are using to position your head higher than your stomach: lying horizontally could exacerbate the symptom.
  • If it’s gums that are causing pain, rinsing the mouth with salt water (remember to heat it in advance) may help.
  • Take ibuprofen or some other over-the-counter NSAID your doctor recommended you.
  • Ice compresses may be of use to those with swelling gums.
Remember that even if one or several of the remedies listed above prove to be useful in your case and pain abates, it is not a reason to refrain from visiting a dentist. The pain will return, and the faster you treat the aching tooth, the better. Do not try to wait until the pain goes away – it can be very dangerous, because the infection from cavities can spread, which can even be life-threatening. If your teeth are in a perfect condition, say, if you have recently had them examined by a dentist, consult a GP – sinusitis is also a thing worth taking seriously, and so are neurological problems.


Bruxism (teeth grinding) –

How to Get Rid of a Nagging Toothache at Night –

How to treat a toothache at home –

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