A toothache is an agonizing pain that can prevent you from carrying out your daily chores. If it happens at night, a toothache can keep you awake all night. This article looks at the main causes of unbearable toothache at night and the available treatment options.
5 Causes of Unbearable Toothache at Night
First of all, it’s important to note that a toothache can occur at any time of the day. However, most toothaches seem to exacerbate at night. If you’ve had this experience before, then perhaps you remember how terrified you felt as bedtime approached. So, why do toothaches worsen at night?
Here are some of the main causes of toothaches at night.
1. Increased Blood Flow
Toothaches tend to worsen at night because of your sleeping position. When you lay your body down in bed at night, more blood rushes to your head, increasing the pressure on sensitive areas like your mouth. This causes you to feel the throbbing sensation in your teeth. Since you spend most of your time during the day standing or sitting, this sensation is less severe because there is less blood flowing to your head.
2. Fewer Brain Distractions
When you are relaxing in bed at night, your brain has fewer distractions and therefore you are more aware of the various sensations in your body. So, it’s very easy to assume that your toothache becomes worse at night, while in reality, it’s not. You just feel the pain more at night because you need to clear your mind at night to fall asleep.
This also means that your jaw and mouth injury will become more uncomfortable at night, which can lead to severe toothache. Also, if you suffer from the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), it will be more painful at night due to increased blood flow in the affected area. The same thing happens if you have gum disease.
3. Late-Night Meals
What you have for dinner determines how painful your tooth will be. For instance, if you eat things like candy, cookies, and other sugary meals at night and they get stuck in between your teeth and gums, you are likely to experience a severe toothache because plaque feeds on sugar.
Therefore, the plaque will feed on the sugar left in your mouth, causing more pain in your teeth, especially if you forget to brush your teeth after every meal.
When bacteria feed on the sugar left on your teeth, it proliferates, causing severe tooth decay. This leaves the nerves in your teeth exposed, causing severe toothache at night. This also makes an infected tooth worse at night.
You may also experience a severe toothache at night if you have a late-night snack that leaves food particles or debris wedged in your teeth, especially if the teeth are already corroded. The food particles will cause excess pressure between the teeth, making the toothache more severe.
4. Unconscious Grinding
It’s normal for you to unconsciously grind your teeth at night. Unfortunately, grinding puts excess pressure on your teeth, gums, and jaw. When this happens, you will be woken up by excruciating pain in your teeth. This type of toothache can be severe and therefore it needs proper care and treatment.
5. Erupting Wisdom Teeth
When your wisdom teeth are erupting, they are likely to keep you awake at night, especially if they come in at the wrong angle or they fail to erupt fully. Like other teeth, wisdom teeth tend to erupt according to the Circadian Rhythm. That’s why they tend to erupt at night. It’s the same reason why many children have difficulty sleeping during teeth eruption.
How to Get Rid of Toothache at Night: 9 Ways
There are several effective ways to treat your toothache at night. However, it’s important to note that most of these remedies are meant to relieve the pain temporarily as you look for a permanent solution. Here are the easiest ways to get rid of a toothache at night.
1. Pain Relief Medication
Several over-the-counter pain relief drugs can help you get rid of a toothache at night so that you can enjoy your sleep. For instance, acetaminophen and ibuprofen drugs are a quick way to effectively deal with mild-to-moderate toothaches.
However, don’t exceed the recommended dosage on the label.
2. Cold Compress
This involves applying a packet of ice to the affected side of your mouth or face to help tighten the blood vessels. It helps to minimize blood flow in the affected area, thus reducing pain and allowing you to find sleep. Just wrap the ice pack in a towel and place it on the affected jaw for about 10-15 minutes before you go to sleep and after every few hours throughout the night.
As mentioned above, laying down in bed allows more blood to flow to your head, creating excess pressure in the affected area. Therefore, you can reduce the pain in your mouth by elevating your head with one or two pillows. By reducing the amount of blood flowing to your head, you will minimize the pain and improve your chances of finding sleep quickly.
4. Medicated Ointments
Medicated ointments can help reduce pain, especially the ones that have special ingredients like benzocaine. This ingredient helps to numb the affected area, allowing you to find sleep. However, this numbing component is not suitable for children.
5. Saltwater Rinse
You can easily get rid of a toothache at night by rinsing your mouth with saltwater, which is a natural antibacterial agent. Saltwater will reduce inflammation in your gums and teeth and protect the damaged teeth from bacterial infection. Rinsing your mouth also helps to remove food particles and debris that may be stuck between your teeth.
6. Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
Rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide mouthwash helps to reduce plaque and prevent serious oral problems such as periodontitis, which causes soreness, bleeding gums, and loose teeth. You should dilute your food-grade hydrogen peroxide with an equal amount of water and make sure you don’t swallow it. This remedy is also not suitable for kids.
7. Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea has proved to be quite effective in temporarily relieving a toothache at night. You just need to swish peppermint tea in your mouth or suck on the teabag. Studies have revealed that peppermint tea contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties like Menthol, which causes a mild numbing effect on the affected areas.
Cloves are known to contain eugenol, which is a natural painkiller. It’s usually applied to the gums and sockets after a tooth extraction to reduce pain and inflammation. This compound numbs the affected area to reduce pain, albeit temporarily.
You can either make a paste and apply it to the affected tooth or chew a single clove and allow it to sit on the affected tooth for a few minutes. However, this remedy is not suitable for children because they may accidentally swallow it. Cloves can be prickly and painful if you swallow them.
Garlic is a common food item that’s found almost in every household. It contains a compound known as allicin, which has very strong antibacterial effects. This compound will help to get rid of bacteria in your mouth, thus preventing cavities and toothaches. You can just chew a piece of garlic and let it sit on the affected tooth for some time or just crush it and put the paste on the affected tooth.
When to See the Dentist
Although the above home remedies can help you to get rid of or reduce a toothache, you should see your dentists as soon as you start experiencing the toothache. This is especially important if the toothache is accompanied by other symptoms of an oral infection. You may need to use antibiotics to treat the infection.
You should also see your dentist immediately if your tooth is cracked or corroded. It’s only a qualified and experienced dentist who can find a permanent remedy for a toothache caused by a cracked tooth. Ignoring these symptoms can easily result in serious oral complications such as gum diseases, abscesses, and tooth loss.
It’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment for your toothache. This prevents it from spreading to other parts of your mouth.
How Can Toothaches Be Prevented?
As mentioned above, toothaches are mainly caused by tooth decay and poor oral hygiene practices. Therefore, you can easily prevent toothaches by preventing tooth decay and maintaining proper oral hygiene. The following are the effective ways to prevent toothaches:
• Brush your teeth regularly with a fluoride toothpaste
• Floss your teeth at least once a day
• Go for regular dental checkups (at least twice a year)
• Avoid too many sugary foods
• Use dental sealants and fluoride applications
In addition to these practices, you should use mouth guards and helmets to protect your teeth and other parts of your mouth against injuries, especially if you are a sportsperson or you work out regularly. Also, teach your kids how to use scissors and openers to open food packages and soda bottles instead of using their teeth.