Often time patients are weirded out that their tooth only hurts at night, and this can surprisingly not even be related to your tooth problem. What’s important to note is that whether it occurs during the day or during the night, a pain is always a symptom of a bigger problem.
In case this happens after dinner for example, it might be caused by a decayed tooth or even an abscess, and it’s usually made worse by hot or cold foods.
Stress is also a factor here, especially if you have a high-stress job. We often clench our jaw and grind our teeth in frustrating situations or when we’re angry, and this is a completely normal way to cope with immediate stress. The problem is when we do this too often and the reason the pain happens at night is because of the, sort of speak, pain buildup. Often times, you’ll experience a toothache during the day without even knowing it, only to get a full grasp on it while you’re trying to sleep and unwind.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism
Most of us probably grind and clench our teeth from time to time, as a result of frustration or anger, but when grinding becomes more and more frequent, it often calls for the diagnose of bruxism. Bruxism is a condition that causes you to clench or tighten your jaw. There are two types of bruxism – daytime and nighttime bruxism, and the worrisome is of course the nighttime one, since that is the one we have close to no control over. As we already mentioned earlier, it’s usually a consequence of stress and anxiety. If you have the habit to grind your teeth during the day, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to control it during the night, and the end result is that you’ll suffer from a toothache. It’s also reported that bruxism can cause damage to dental restorations, such a dental crowns and teeth fillings, as well as fracturing or even teeth loss. In some cases of advanced bruxism, the situation calls for partial and even complete dentures. Due to all of these consequences, it’s advantageous to diagnose bruxism in the early stages, since they can absolutely affect the quality of your overall life.
How to spot bruxism?
The most common way a person finds out that they have bruxism is when their families or their sleeping partners point it out. Even though grinding your teeth consciously doesn’t make a lot of noise, doing it in your sleep, unconsciously, when there is usually no background noise to cover it up, can potentially be worse than snoring for people close to you and best believe you’ll hear about it. Another way to figure it out, by yourself, is if you are constantly waking up with a headache or a sore jaw, for no obvious reason. Although a telltale sign, it wouldn’t hurt to schedule a checkup with your dentist, so he can tell you if there’s anything wrong going on.
The most common and the most effective treatment for teeth grinding is wearing a protective mouthguard. This isn’t the cure, but it is a fix, since it absorbs the pressure made by teeth grinding and protects the surface of our teeth, such as dental crowns and teeth fillings.
You can get fitted for this protective mouthguard right at your dentist’s office. Although, you can opt to get it over the counter, a custom-fitted mouthguard is always a better option since it’s made specifically for you and it will fit your mouth perfectly.
Bruxism treatment is very important, since grinding can wear off the surface of our teeth, leaving them exposed to tooth decay and infections, and also result in other disorders, such as headaches, ringing in the ears, as well as the pain in the neck and shoulders.
If the bruxism is not discovered early, the main treatment is firstly repairing the damage that’s already been done and preventing any further damage, while managing current symptoms.
Bruxism is usually the result of high stress and anxiety, so the main thing to do here is learn how to reduce stress levels, and this is something that’s different for everyone. Some people engage in physical activities, while some turn to relaxation techniques, such as meditation.
Can TMJ cause toothaches that happen during the night?
Simple answer – yes, it can. TMJ, also known as temporomandibular joint, can be put under pressure by constant teeth grinding. Sometimes, TMD (temporomandibular disorder) is mistaken as a toothache, but when you visit your dentist, he won’t find any decay in your teeth.
Unfortunately, it’s not ease to diagnose TMJ, because other conditions have very similar symptoms and this requires your dentist to carry out a comprehensive dental examination, in order to figure out the cause of your pain.
Another reason for pain during the night can simply be a blood rush to your head when you’re laying down horizontally, which exerts more pressure on the tooth that probably has some decay on it. Luckily, if this is a reason, it can simply be eliminated by elevating your head to reduce the blood flow, but it also requires a visit to your dentist to see what the problem with that tooth actually is.
Elevation of the head can be a factor if Bruxism is not the issue
If you are not grinding your teeth at night, then the elevation of your head when you are laying down may be drawing attention to a cavity or another issue. This is because the circulation of blood when you are laying down in bed at night produces an increased blood flow in your head. In this case, you will want to go into your dentist for a dental exam to determine the underlying
“Try changing the elevation of your head with different pillows.”
cause. The good news is that it is likely minor at this point and should be something that can be dealt with quickly. If you cannot go to the dentist right away, try changing the elevation of your head with different pillows to see if it helps. If this does not help, then have no fear, we have a few other things which you can do as well.
How to relieve the pain?
Although dental treatment is very necessary in this case, home care measures can be utilized in order to alleviate the pain. You can try using over the counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, for starters.
Another great way to deal with the pain is to apply heat or cold packs and do some stretching exercises. Plenty of patients have found this method very beneficial!
Toothache is never very convenient, but it’s especially not welcome when it’s the middle of the night and you’re trying to de-stress, as that’s the main cause of your symptoms, just to simply not be able to. Do yourself a favor and visit your dentist’s office for a checkup and to possibly get your own mouth guard.
Additional Pain relieving methods: Chamomile Tea
When you are having issues getting to sleep due to toothache pain at night, one excellent way to help you get to sleep is a Chamomile compress. Chamomile is known for helping people to get to sleep and it also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce pain from swelling. To take advantage of this, make yourself a Chamomile tea to drink but keep the teabag inside the cup so that it is still warm when you finish your tea. Place this teabag between cheek and gum over the area which is hurting and hold it in your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes. This should give the tea a little time to kick and to make you feel more sleepy while the tannins in the teabag assist with reducing your toothache.
Additional pain relieving methods: Painkillers in the Pantry
If you are experiencing tooth pain at night but do not wish to rely on over-the-counter medication, there are some home remedies which you can try utilizing items that you may already have in your pantry. Some things which you can use are as follows:
- Cloves or clove oil – Clove oil is very strong so you want to limit usage to 3 times a day at most. That said, it is quite effective. 2 -3 drops places on a cotton ball and applied to the spot where you are feeling the pain (between cheek and gum is fine) will produce a numbing effect in a few minutes. Keep the cotton ball in for 5 to 10 minutes and you should have a slight to moderate numbness in the area that will help you to relax and get some sleep. You can also chew a clove if you don’t have the oils but be careful and try to chew close to, but not directly on the affected area so that you don’t make it worse.
- Mint oils or extracts – Peppermint and spearmint oils and extracts are a common part of the spice rack and provide a tastier alternative to clove oil. While not as strong as clove oil, mint oils provide a cooling numbness that can help to alleviate your tooth pain if the cloves have too strong a flavor for your tastes.
- Hot sauce – If you like hot sauce and we are talking really hot (Louisiana style, tabasco, and others) then you can get a cotton swab and apply a drop or two to the affected area. The capsaicin from the peppers has the opposite effect of what you might think, instead of stinging you will experience a cessation of the pain. You can also sprinkle a few drops on a cotton ball and bite down on it to achieve the same results, just keep the cotton in your mouth for a few minutes to obtain the best results. Don’t do this if you are sensitive to peppers but if you include them in your diet a lot then try this sometime. You’ll appreciate the results.
- Vanilla extract – Reputed to have antioxidant properties which can help in healing, Vanilla extract has a property that you may not have considered is it’s alcohol content. Vanilla extract has a 35% alcohol content, which puts it at an equal level to most rums. Take advantage of this by applying a small amount to a cotton ball and placing it in your mouth between your gums and your cheek, or simply coat a cotton swab with it and rub the affected area. This can help to slightly numb the affected area and might be just the trick you need to drift off into sleep.
Preventative maintenance: Foods that clean your teeth
Once your nighttime toothache pains have been dealt with then you should consider adding certain foods to your diet as a form of ‘preventative maintenance’. Some foods can actually help to clean your teeth when you eat them, so with a little tweaking of your snack habits you help to keep future problems at bay while still enjoying some yummy foods. Some examples of foods that clean your teeth as you eat them are as follows:
- Carrotsticks – Carrots are tough to chew and that’s a good thing. Eating carrot sticks will have the effect of brushing your teeth due to its tough fiber content, just leave out the ranch dressing dip and chew the carrots raw or you’ll have to brush after anyways.
- Apple slices – Apples are sweetly acidic, which helps to reduce bacterial levels at the same time that it’s fibrous makeup rubs and scrubs your teeth as you chew.
In today’s article we have discussed why toothaches sometimes manifest only at night as well as given you a few things you can do to get your Z’s. Please keep in mind that these fixes are only temporary, a toothache means there is a problem, so take advantage of our tips but be sure to see your dentist soon!