Why do my teeth hurt at night? Reasons and solutions explained

You have things to do in the morning and all of a sudden you ask yourself “why do my teeth hurt at night” and why couldn’t I sleep yesterday? There can be many reasons behind it. While trying to sleep we become more alert about what our body is telling us. That is the first reason why your teeth hurt more at night. It is not always “more” actually, but you feel it more intensely in the silence of the night. Think about it like hearing even the smallest voices around you while trying to sleep.

So, is it just an illusion of the night? No, it doesn’t have to be. You might have a serious problem and we are here to help you till you get to the morning. First, we will explain the different reasons why your teeth hurt at night, and then you can look at every possible thing you might try at night or during the weekend.

The reasons for toothache at night

A painful tooth is enough to make your sleep experience turn into a nightmare and there can be many reasons behind it. We listed the most common reasons for the question “why do my teeth hurt at night”. We also tried to explain why these problems occur and in which conditions.

Infectious, decayed tooth or abscessed tooth

If you realised that you have a decayed tooth, or infection on your teeth in the middle of the night it must be terrible for you right now. Especially if you had some acidic, cold or sugary food before you sleep it worsens the scenario. Most of the toothache pain in the middle of the night is because of a decayed tooth, cavity, or because of infection.

Gum recession

Gum recession can be a painful situation too, especially during the night time in bed when your blood vessels are getting more blood in your head. It gives extra pressure on your head sometimes it can be unbearable. Some of the reasons for the gum recession are:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Brushing your teeth vigorously
  • Periodontitis (a gum disease)
  • Smoking

Tooth Grinding

Grinding or in other words, bruxism is a common problem and affects your teeth with the related organs. Most people do not realize it until other people tell them, but it can be the reason why you woke up in the middle of the night and have a toothache.

Grinding means you overwork your jaws during sleep and tightly cross your teeth over each other. If you feel any pain or aching around your jaw in the middle of the night, or in the morning you might be grinding your teeth.

You can also notice its effects during the day while chewing things. Teeth sensitivity might also be related to teeth grinding. Sometimes it can be tracked with a so-called earache, but it is actually your jaw muscles aching (the problem is not your ear but you feel like it is). Teeth grinding is a common problem actually it is generally reported in children and less in adults. In a study conducted with a thousand people, almost 4 people out of ten experienced grinding during the night. 

There can be many reasons behind your teeth grinding, some of them are:

  • Stress and anxiety: These are the most common reasons for grinding at night. If you are feeling anxious during the day. You can try meditating, exercising, and spending time with your family. Reducing your stress will have a positive effect on your sleeping and will most likely prevent grinding.
  • Antidepression medicines: Antidepression medicines are known to cause grinding after 3-4 weeks of usage. Especially if you are using fluoxetine, sertraline, and venlafaxine it is most likely you’ll experience it. After you stop using them, grinding will slowly fade away in 3-4 weeks. Never change your routine with anti-depression pills, until your doctor says so.
  • Smoking, drinking, and drugs: These products and drinking alcohol are known to affect your sleep quality, which can lead to grinding too. Drugs like cocaine and ecstasy will also do the same effects. Getting more than enough caffeine will probably do the same as well.
  • Having a chipped or broken tooth: It can both lead to or be the reason behind of chipped or cracked tooth. If your grinding is serious it can even erode the outer part of your tooth with the fraction. Some protective solutions will help you with severe grinding cases.
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder: In short, TMD is a jaw disorder. The joints where your skull and jaw are connected have a special design making you move your jaw in every direction not just up and down like the other ones. TMD is a functional problem for that jaw joint and one of the reasons for grinding. Consequently, it leads to pain in your face which you may feel as toothache.

Sinus infection

Sinus infections have many symptoms and one of them is feeling pressure over your teeth giving you a toothache. It might give you some discomfort while sleeping more than daytime. You might not feel it in the daytime. It is like getting used to it and only feeling it when you are trying to relax.

The feeling over your teeth does not have to be related to your sinus infection though. Sinus infection only affects the upper teeth where your sinuses are closer. You can check the other symptoms of sinus infection to make sure if the problem is with your teeth, or because of your sinuses. Here are some of the symptoms of a sinus infection:

  • Pain and pressure in your face (it might also lead to a toothache)
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Loss of smell
  • Runny nose

PS: If you feel two different symptoms of sinus infection for more than 12 weeks, it could be chronic rhinosinusitis, in which case you should see your doctor.

What to do when teeth hurt at night

You will find some basic and herbal solutions to give you some relief. We also added which pain medications you can use, and what other options you have if you are wondering what to do when your teeth hurt at night. This a friendly warning for you before you try any of the things except home remedies. These methods are not recommended for people who recently got dental implants, tooth extraction, or some other dental restorations. Try them at your own risk but be careful not to hurt yourself.

Home remedies for relieving the pain

  • Use more pillows: Elevating your head will reduce the blood flow going to your teeth and head. If you have a throbbing ache in your teeth, this will reduce the pain you have.
  • Cold compress: Put some ice around the aching tooth to relieve pain. It will again lower the blood pressure around your cheeks and tooth and will give you some numbness. Make sure you cover the ice bag with a towel and apply it for 15-20 minutes consecutively not to damage your skin tissue.
  • Rinse your mouth: Saltwater is good for relieving pain. Use warm water as it is good for your teeth and helps dissolve salt faster. Add a teaspoon of salt to the 200 ml water and stir it for 30 seconds to dissolve the salt. Rinse your mouth for a minute or two and spit it.

Herbal Options

Some herbals and different methods can give you instant results. Most of these methods are not recommended for a long period of application, though they can make you survive the night.

  • Peppermint
  • Ginger
  • Chamomile

You can have them drinking warm tea, or put them on your tooth with tea bags. Some people also chew on them and find it relieving. Especially if you have soring gum these methods will help you.

Pain Medications

These are the most commonly used painkillers for toothache.

  • Ibuprofen
  • Ketoprofen
  • Paracetamol

They should be used only in the prescribed or recommended amounts to prevent any allergic reaction or side effects. Especially Ibuprofen should be avoided if you have asthma. Never use them unless you are unsure about your health conditions.

Some extra and relatively dangerous options

And now we will give you some extra methods to use on your teeth but we definitely do not recommend you use them in the long term as they can erode your tooth enamel and can worsen the scenario.

  • Clove oil: Clove oil is known to give you relief from your aching teeth, but is it safe? It is not safe for long-term usage, as it can lead your tooth enamel to erode in time and damage your gums. However, you can use it to survive the night. It is only recommended for adults usage, never let your children use it.
  • Alcohol: Like clove oil, alcohol is also known to erode your enamel but it has a numbing effect on your nerves and can be used for one or two nights to help you sleep at the weekend. You do not have to swallow it, just rinse your mouth with high-alcohol including beverages such as whiskey.
  • Hydrogen peroxide and honey: If you are not satisfied with the saltwater rinsing method, you might try adding a low concentration of hydrogen peroxide or honey. It is not recommended, especially for children but we put it here just to let you know. Never, ever swallow the hydrogen peroxide solution. Just simply rinse your mouth and spit it.

Long term solutions

If you are looking for a permanent solution for your bedtime toothaches, you might need to buy some special products or follow a daily routine to protect your dental health. One of the products is custom-made night guards, these will help you with your grinding problem. Other than these get a dental appointment to learn the real reason behind the toothache. Remember to inform your dentists what you tried to relieve the pain as well.

One more thing before you leave

We can help you sleep faster. We assume you will try one of these methods or already tried one of them. Now you should quickly get back to sleep because you already lost a lot of time and the pain might come back before the morning. Here we compiled a list for you to help you sleep faster.

  • Turn off and get rid of any sound-making devices
  • Take a warm shower
  • Reading a book will help you sleep faster and improve your sleep quality
  • Try one of these sleeping methods to sleep faster

Contact us for a free consultation! We will get back to you as soon as possible.

References:

Michalek-Zrabkowska M, Wieckiewicz M, Macek P, et al. The Relationship between Simple Snoring and Sleep Bruxism: A Polysomnographic Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(23):8960. Published 2020 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/ijerph17238960 Link

Garrett AR, Hawley JS. SSRI-associated bruxism: A systematic review of published case reports. Neurol Clin Pract. 2018;8(2):135-141. doi:10.1212/CPJ.0000000000000433 Link

Gauer RL, Semidey MJ. Diagnosis and treatment of temporomandibular disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2015;91(6):378-386. Link

Finucane E, O’Brien A, Treweek S, et al. Does reading a book in bed make a difference to sleep in comparison to not reading a book in bed? The People’s Trial-an online, pragmatic, randomised trial. Trials. 2021;22(1):873. Published 2021 Dec 4. doi:10.1186/s13063-021-05831-3 Link

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