Tooth pain at night: What causes toothache at night?

There’s nothing worse than a persistent toothache, especially when it comes at night and keeps you up. If your tooth pain is persistent or comes and goes, it’s important to schedule a check-up with your Las Vegas dentist to determine the cause of the pain and follow up with the best treatment. Toothaches can be caused by many things, some more serious than others. Here’s a look at what may be causing your nighttime tooth pain and what you can do.

What Causes A Toothache 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 because 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 because there are fewer distractions. With little else to focus on but the toothache, a person may find it difficult to fall asleep.

Food particles stuck in the tooth

The simplest and most common cause of a toothache is food particles stuck between your teeth or gums. Popcorn kernels, apple skins, small seeds or nuts can all easily get trapped between teeth and cause discomfort or pain. This can often be improved by simply brushing and flossing to remove the trapped food.

Tooth grinding

Tooth grinding

This is the most common reason for nightly toothaches. Lots of people grind their teeth while they sleep. Of course, it can be hard to tell if you do this or not. After all, you are asleep! However, waking up with mouth pain is a classic symptom. Your dentist can check your teeth for signs of grinding.

Losing a filling

If you lose a filling, the nerve inside the tooth may be exposed. Filling can fall of if you haven’t kept up with oral hygiene or you’ve been eating hard foods.

TMJ Disorders

TMJ disorders usually causes pain at all times of the day. However, busy people might not notice the pain until nighttime. If you cannot determine the cause of your toothaches, then you might have a TMJ problem. Ask your dentist for more information on this common jaw issue.

Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth can also cause toothaches. Most people with sensitive teeth experience tenderness after mealtimes. Are you eating late meals or bedtime snacks? This might be the cause of your nightly tooth problems. Try eating earlier in the evening and see if you feel relief.

Gum Inflammation or Infection

Inadequate flossing causes gum inflammation which, left untreated, can lead to infections.  The pain caused by inflammation or infection can often be confused with tooth pain, so diagnosis by a dentist is critical in order to determine the correct treatment.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth can create pain at any age, which is why it is common practice to have them removed during adolescence. If a person with wisdom teeth is experiencing mystery tooth pain, it may be caused by shifting wisdom teeth. This pain can occur whether or not a patient’s wisdom teeth are above the gum line.

Home remedy for toothache at night

Treating a toothache at home usually involves pain management. Here are a few ways to dull your pain so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Use over-the-counter pain medication

Using medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin can relieve minor pain from a toothache. Using numbing pastes or gels — often with benzocaine — can help to dull the pain long enough for you to fall asleep. Don’t use any products with benzocaine to treat infants or children under age 2.

Follow good oral hygiene

Follow good oral hygiene

Following a comprehensive oral health care routine can help prevent additional food or debris in the mouth from contributing to pain. Before going to sleep, make sure you brush your teeth for a full two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste and then floss. This will help remove any trapped food particles that may be contributing to pain.

Keep your head elevated

Propping your head higher than your body can keep the blood from rushing to your head. If blood pools in your head, it might intensify the toothache pain and possibly keep you awake.

Avoid eating acidic, cold, or hard foods right before bed

These foods can aggravate your teeth and any cavities that may have already formed. Try to avoid foods that trigger pain.

Rinse your teeth with mouthwash

Use a mouthwash that contains alcohol to both disinfect and numb your teeth.

Use peppermint tea

Swishing peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint tea bags may also help temporarily relieve pain from a toothache. Researchers note that peppermint contains antibacterial and antioxidant compounds. Menthol, an active ingredient in peppermint, may also have a mild numbing effect on sensitive areas.

Use an ice pack before bed

Use an ice pack before bed

Wrap an ice pack in cloth and rest the painful side of your face on it. This can help to dull the pain so you can rest.

Apply Clove on the gums

Eugenol, which is one of the main compounds in cloves, can reduce tooth pain. 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.

Chew garlic

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.

Use 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.

Toothache plant

The aptly named toothache plant is a flowering plant that grows in tropical and subtropical regions. Its active compound, spilanthol, has anti-inflammatory properties, it also provides a numbing sensation when chewed.

Though this plant is generally considered safe, you shouldn’t use it if you’re allergic to plants in the daisy family or pregnant.

When should you go to the dentist?

Monitor your toothache over the next 24 hours. If it subsides, you may just have an irritation. Make an appointment with your dentist if:

  • the pain is severe
  • your toothache lasts longer than two days
  • you have a fever, headache, or pain when opening your mouth
  • you have trouble breathing or swallowing


Can a tooth nerve heal itself?

Teeth nerves do have the ability to heal, yes. However, there are degrees of damage that occur and it is only in certain circumstances that self-healing happens.

What is the best painkiller for severe toothache?

Ibuprofen is the most commonly recommended pain reliever for dental pain. That’s because, in addition to pain relief, NSAIDs also reduce inflammation. Ibuprofen isn’t appropriate for everyone, though. For example, people who take certain medications or have certain health conditions need to avoid NSAIDs.

Will antibiotics stop tooth pain?

Antibiotics will not cure toothache, they will only mask the problem until you have something done about the tooth itself. They may stop the pain for a few days, weeks or even months, but tooth pain will come back and antibiotics will not stop the underlying cause.