At the end of a long, hectic day, every one of us wishes to just snuggle into their cozy bed and slowly drift into a long, peaceful sleep. However, for some people, things don’t go as smoothly as they planned as bedtime is usually when they realize that they are experiencing a toothache.
Yes, it is quite common to be kept awake by a problem as simple as a toothache. While you may fail to notice it during the day hours, the same pain can become nagging and sometimes completely unbearable at night. What’s worse, you are unable to get to a doctor at such late hours and end up having to bear it through the night.
This article will shed light upon this problem and discuss the most common causes of toothache in addition to why this problem occurs more commonly at night. Next, it will talk about some common remedies and solutions that can help you sleep peacefully at night despite struggling with a toothache.
Let’s dive in.
Most Common Causes of Toothache
The commonest cause of toothache in most people is tooth decay, and without adequate treatment, it may lead to the development of cavities. Cavities occur as the bacterial strains drill through the weakened tooth enamel and start eating the delicate tissue inside your teeth. As the protective tissue layer is removed, the nerves are exposed which can cause the pain of mild to severe intensity.
In some people, sinus infections sometimes lead to a toothache as well. The symptoms begin as this infection is draining from the head and tend to be more severe at night.
Some other common culprits behind a toothache are:
- Dental abscess
- A wisdom tooth
- Losing a tooth filling
- An underlying gum disease
- Excessive involuntary teeth grinding at night
- Food stuck in gums or teeth
Why Does A Toothache Hurt More At Night?
If you have ever been a victim of a toothache, you probably have an idea about how dreadful it can get at the end of the day. Sure, it is bothersome during the day too, but a lot of people complain how the pain seems to worsen close to bedtime, which is actually true.
Mentioned below are the reasons why your toothache is likely to increase at night.
Increased Blood Flow
The biggest reason why your toothache may worsen during the night is your sleeping position. As you lay down in your bed to sleep, more blood rushes towards your head. This increases the pressure exerted on the sensitive areas, including the mouth, and your toothache automatically worsens.
You do not feel this throbbing during the day as you are mostly sitting or standing.
Daytime is busy for most people as they are more invested in their jobs, projects, household chores, etc. Such busy schedules force most people to neglect their aching teeth.
Nighttime, on the other hand, is usually free and is meant for relaxation with fewer distractions. So with nothing to do, you are likely to feel your toothache more at this time.
Late Night Munching
If you have had a late dinner or munched on candy as a midnight snack, some of that food is bound to get stuck in your gums or teeth. If you are not habitual about brushing your teeth at night, this can be particularly hazardous as plaque thrives on sugar and may lead to a toothache.
Unconscious Teeth Grinding
Some people are habitual grinders of their teeth at night. This teeth grinding puts a lot of stress on teeth, gums, and jaws, forcing them to wake up in extreme pain.
Sleeping With A Toothache At Night
If you have suddenly developed a toothache in the middle of the night that’s disturbing your sleep, there are a few tips to try at home to ease it until you are able to see a dentist. These tips are mentioned below.
Oral Pain Medicine
Taking an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen is the quickest and the simplest way to get over mild to moderate toothaches. Remember to stick to the recommended dose mentioned on the package. If the painkiller fails to relieve the pain or is too severe, don’t forget to consult a dentist before switching to stronger pain medicine.
Using a cold compress is another way to manage toothache at night. All you need to do is wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to the affected side of the jaw. The ice will constrict the blood vessels in the applied area and effectively reduce pain to an extent that you can peacefully sleep at night.
If the pain is severe, consider repeating the process every few hours and make sure to hold the compress in place for fifteen to twenty minutes.
As mentioned before, your sleeping position is often a culprit behind toothache and inflammation. Elevating the head using an extra pillow can relieve the pain in such cases and help you fall asleep peacefully.
Using some medicated ointments can also help minimize tooth pain at night. Many over-the-counter numbing ointments and gels are loaded with ingredients like benzocaine that control the pain, at least temporarily until you get professional help. However, remember that products containing benzocaine are not suitable for children.
Rinsing With Salt Water
Another simple yet common home remedy to get relief from a toothache is rinsing the mouth with saltwater. Saltwater possesses strong anti-bacterial effects and can effectively manage high inflammatory levels too. (1) As a result, saltwater can protect the damaged teeth from infection. Rinsing with this water also helps remove any food particles stuck in the gums or teeth.
Rinsing with Hydrogen Peroxide
Periodontitis is an infection of the gums that normally occurs due to prolonged poor oral habits. It may lead to several issues like bleeding gums, soreness, and loosened teeth that may even come out of their sockets, leading to pain.
Studies have found that all these symptoms associated with periodontitis can be effectively managed with the help of a hydrogen peroxide mouth wash. (2) However, if you have decided to make a rinse at home by yourself using the food-grade hydrogen peroxide, don’t forget to dilute it with equal parts of water. Moreover, avoid swallowing the solution as you swish it inside your mouth. Children must not use this remedy as they are at a higher risk of swallowing this solution.
Soothing Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is a natural herb that possesses strong antioxidant and antibacterial components. The active ingredient of this herb, known as Methanol, also exerts numbing effects on all sensitive areas it comes in contact with. (3)
Clove is another natural ingredient that is commonly found in all household pantries. It is rich in a compound called eugenol which can help reduce toothaches. A study performed in 2015 found that the participants who used eugenol on their tooth sockets and gums following a tooth extraction suffered from less inflammation and pain during the healing phase. (4) This is because eugenol possesses analgesic properties that can help any aching area.
To use cloves for a toothache, soak a handful of them in water and make a paste. Use this paste on the aching tooth directly. You can also fill up an empty tea bag with this clove paste and place the bag on the affected area.
You may also consider sucking or chewing on a single clove gently and let it sit close to the painful tooth for some time.
Garlic is a quite common household ingredient and chances are you will have it in your kitchen in case an unexpected toothache hits you in the middle of the night. This natural ingredient contains allicin that possesses strong antibacterial properties and kills off any pathogen that might be causing cavities and the consequent tooth pain. (5)
Using garlic for a toothache is quite simple. All you need to do is chew a clove of this ingredient and let it sit near the aching tooth for some time.
Aching Tooth: When To See A Dentist
If you have encountered a toothache at night, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. While the home remedies mentioned above can provide relief, they are only temporary and must not be considered as a long term solution.
If your toothache comes with other signs of infection, you may need to use antibiotics to clear it out completely. If problems like a cracked or decaying tooth are the culprit behind this pain, a dentist must be consulted right away for getting permanent treatment.
Keep in mind that ignoring any signs of tooth decay, like a toothache, can only worsen the condition, leading to more problems like tooth loss, gum disease, or abscesses.
Dealing with a sudden toothache at night can be an extremely painful experience as it can keep you from sleeping and there is nothing you can do until morning. In such circumstances, following the remedies mentioned in this article is recommended as they might provide temporary relief and allow you to sleep peacefully through the night until you can finally see a dentist.
Remember that while these remedies can be of great help for some, they are not a permanent solution to your dental problem. If you suspect a bigger underlying problem behind your toothache, it is highly recommended to book an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible.