A toothache is a painful annoyance, especially at night. Getting a toothache at night can make falling asleep or staying asleep very difficult.
A toothache or tooth pain is caused when the nerve in the root of a tooth or surrounding a tooth is irritated. Dental (tooth) infection, decay, injury, or loss of a tooth are the most common causes of dental pain. Pain may also occur after an extraction (tooth is pulled out). Pain sometimes originates from other areas and radiates to the jaw, thus appearing to be tooth pain. The most common areas include the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ), ear pain, sinuses, and even occasional heart problems.
Bacteria growing inside your mouth can contribute to gum disease and dental decay, both of which can cause pain. Often, gum disease will not result in any pain.
You can prevent the majority of dental problems by flossing, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and having your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. The dentist may apply sealants and fluoride, which are especially important for children’s teeth.
Toothache occurs from inflammation of the central portion of the tooth called the pulp. The pulp contains nerve endings that are very sensitive to pain. Inflammation to the pulp or pulpitis may be caused by dental cavities, trauma, and infection. Referred pain from the jaw may cause you to have symptoms of a toothache.
Other potential causes for a toothache include:
- losing a filling
- dental abscesses
- trauma to the jaw
- a wisdom tooth or adult tooth coming in
- food stuck in the teeth or gums
- grinding the teeth at night
- gum disease
Toothache and jaw pain are common complaints. There may be severe pain to pressure or too hot or cold stimuli. The pain may persist for longer than 15 seconds after the stimulus is removed. As the area of inflammation increases, the pain becomes more severe. It may radiate to the cheek, the ear, or the jaw. Other signs and symptoms that may lead you to seek care include the following:
- Pain with chewing
- Hot or cold sensitivity
- Bleeding or discharge from around a tooth or gums
- Swelling around a tooth or swelling of your jaw
- Injury or trauma to the area
These signs and symptoms may sometimes be associated with dental decay, tooth fracture, or gum disease (periodontal disease). Dental decay or an area of redness around the tooth’s gum line may point to the source of pain. If you tap an infected tooth, it may make the pain more intense. This sign may point to the problem tooth even if the tooth appears normal.
However, several remedies may help people find relief and get to sleep, including taking pain relievers or applying a cold compress or even cloves to the tooth.
In this article, learn more about nine home remedies for relieving a toothache at night.
9 ways to treat a toothache at night
Treating a toothache at night may be more difficult, as there is not much to distract a person from the pain.
However, people can try the following methods to relieve pain:
- Oral pain medication
Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) is a quick, simple way for many people to effectively reduce mild-to-moderate toothaches.
Always stay within the recommended dosage on the packaging.
If the toothache is severe, it is best to see a dentist and speak to them about stronger pain relievers.
- Cold compress
Using a cold compress may help ease the pain of a toothache.
Applying a bag of ice wrapped in a towel to the affected side of the face or jaw helps constrict the blood vessels in the area, which can reduce pain to allow a person to fall asleep.
Applying a cold compress to the area for 15–20 minutes every few hours in the evening may also help prevent pain when going to bed.
Pooling blood in the head may cause additional pain and inflammation. For some people, elevating the head with an extra pillow or two may relieve the pain enough for them to fall asleep.
- Medicated ointments
Some medicated ointments may also help reduce toothache pain. OTC numbing gels and ointments that contain ingredients such as benzocaine may numb the area.
However, benzocaine is not suitable for use by young children.
- Saltwater rinse
A simple saltwater rinse is a common home remedy for a toothache.
Saltwater is a natural antibacterial agent, so it may reduce inflammation. This, in turn, helps protect damaged teeth from infection.
Rinsing with salt water may also help remove any food particles or debris stuck in the teeth or gums.
- Hydrogen peroxide rinse
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that generally occurs as a result of poor oral hygiene. It can cause issues such as soreness, bleeding gums, and teeth that come loose in their sockets.
The author of a 2016 study found that rinsing with hydrogen peroxide mouthwash helped reduce plaque and symptoms of periodontitis.
People should always dilute food-grade hydrogen peroxide with equal parts of water. Swish the solution in the mouth, but do not swallow it.
This remedy is not suitable for children, as there is a risk they may accidentally swallow the mixture.
- Peppermint tea
Swishing peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint tea bags may also help temporarily relieve pain from a toothache.
Eugenol, which is one of the main compounds in cloves, can reduce tooth pain. The results of a 2015 clinical trial indicated that people who applied eugenol to their gums and socket after having a tooth extracted had less pain and inflammation during healing.
Eugenol acts as an analgesic, which means that it numbs the area. To use clove for a toothache, soak ground cloves in water to make a paste. Then, apply the paste to the tooth, or put it in an empty tea bag and place it in the mouth.
Alternatively, gently chewing or sucking on a single clove and then allowing it to sit near the painful tooth may help relieve pain.
This is not a suitable remedy for children, as they may swallow too much clove. Single cloves can be spiky and painful if a person swallows them.
Garlic is a common household ingredient that some people use to relieve toothache pain.
Allicin, which is the main compound in garlic, has a strong antibacterial effect that may help kill the bacteria in the mouth that lead to cavities and tooth pain.
Simply chewing a clove of garlic and allowing it to sit near the tooth may help relieve pain. That said, the taste of raw garlic can be too strong for some people, so this may not be the right solution for everyone.
Why do some toothaches hurt more at night?
Toothaches can be painful in the day, but they may seem to get worse at night.
One reason that this may occur is that when a person is lying down, blood rushes to the head. This extra blood in the area may increase the pain and pressure that people feel from a toothache.
Another reason why many aches feel worse at night is that there are fewer distractions. With little else to focus on but the toothache, a person may find it difficult to fall asleep.
Dealing with a toothache is a painful experience. Although many home remedies can provide temporary relief and help a person get some sleep, they are not permanent solutions.
Anyone who experiences a toothache for longer than 1 or 2 days without symptoms of a sinus infection should see our dentist at Baytown Gentle Dental for a full diagnosis and treatment.
They may need to clean out a cavity or consider more serious options, such as root canals or tooth extractions.
We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today
Dr. Seif received an award in Aesthetic Dentistry and an Advanced Standing Achievement Certificate and held a position as a part-time clinical instructor.
Dr. Seif has more than 15 years of experience as a dentist and has obtained two dental degrees. Dr. Seif earned his first degree in dentistry in Syria in 1998 and practiced general dentistry until coming to the US to advance his education by earning a second dental degree from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, a world-renown dental institute. While at Loma Linda, Dr. Seif received an award in Aesthetic Dentistry and an Advanced Standing Achievement Certificate and held a position as a part-time clinical instructor.
Dr. Seif’s compassion and friendly nature is evident to his patients. He believes that every individual should be treated in a kind, caring and respectful manner. Dr. Seif is dedicated to life-long learning and enjoys participating in post-graduate courses that enable him to provide his patients and community with the excellent dental care he believes every person deserves.
Moving from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2014, Dr. Seif now calls Baytown his home. Along with cooking, friends, family and his dog, Sophie, he enjoys southern culture. He is enthralled by the friendliness and hospitality he finds in Texas, saying, “This is exactly the kind of community I want to live and practice in!”