Why Do My Teeth Hurt at Night? 8 Possible Reasons

why do my teeth hurt at night

Many people find themselves pondering, “Why do my teeth hurt at night?” as they lie awake, troubled by unexpected dental discomfort. This nocturnal toothache can transform what should be a peaceful time for rest and rejuvenation into a source of distress and frustration.

In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons behind nighttime tooth pain, shedding light on this perplexing question and offering insights into potential remedies. Join us as we unravel the mystery behind your evening dental woes and guide you towards more comfortable and pain-free nights.

Understanding Tooth Pain

Tooth Pain

Tooth pain, medically known as odontalgia, can manifest in various forms—ranging from a mild annoyance to a severe, throbbing ache that demands immediate attention. It may be constant, keeping you up all night, or intermittent, giving you brief moments of relief before surging back with a vengeance. The nature of tooth pain can often give clues about its origin and the best course of action for relief.

Why Nighttime?

The question of “Why do my teeth hurt at night?” is particularly intriguing. Several factors contribute to the intensification of tooth pain after dark. Firstly, the distraction of daytime activities gives way to the quiet of the night, making us more aware of our bodily sensations, including tooth pain.

Secondly, the horizontal position of lying down can increase blood flow to the head and exacerbate pain in sensitive areas, including the teeth. Lastly, the lack of stimulation and saliva production during sleep can leave teeth more vulnerable to pain caused by decay or infection.

Common Causes of Nighttime Tooth Pain


Nighttime tooth pain can stem from a variety of dental issues, each with its unique set of symptoms and underlying causes. Understanding these can help in identifying the best approach for relief and treatment.

1. Tooth Decay and Cavities

One of the most common culprits behind tooth pain at night is tooth decay, which leads to cavities. Bacteria in the mouth produce acids that eat away at the tooth enamel, creating small holes or cavities.

When these cavities penetrate deep into the tooth, they can affect the sensitive inner layer known as the dentin, and eventually reach the nerve, causing significant pain. This pain can become more pronounced at night due to the lack of distractions and the increased blood flow to the head when lying down.

2. Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, starts with the buildup of plaque along and under the gum line. This can lead to inflammation known as gingivitis, which, if left untreated, can progress to periodontitis—a more severe form of gum disease that affects the bones and tissues holding the teeth in place. The inflammation and infection associated with gum disease can be particularly painful at night.

3. Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is often an unconscious habit that occurs during sleep. It can put excessive pressure on the teeth and jaw, leading to pain that can awaken you from sleep or be noticeable upon waking. The repetitive grinding can wear down tooth enamel, lead to cracked teeth, and strain the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), all of which can contribute to nighttime tooth pain.

4. Cracked Teeth or Fillings

Teeth can crack due to various reasons, including chewing hard foods, teeth grinding, or trauma. Similarly, fillings can become damaged over time. These cracks and damages can expose the dentin or even the nerve, leading to sharp pain, especially when biting down or when exposed to extreme temperatures. The change in pressure when lying down can exacerbate this pain, making it more noticeable at night.

5. Sinus Pressure

The roots of the upper teeth are located close to the sinus cavities. When these cavities become inflamed or infected, such as with sinusitis, the pressure can be felt in the teeth, leading to what feels like tooth pain. This pressure can increase when lying down, making the pain more pronounced at night.

6. Changes in Blood Pressure

The body’s blood pressure can vary at different times of the day and can be influenced by lying down. For some people, changes in blood pressure during the night can increase the sensation of tooth pain, especially if there are existing dental conditions like cavities or gum disease that are sensitive to pressure changes.

7. Tooth Eruption

For children and some teenagers, tooth eruption is a natural cause of nighttime tooth pain. As new teeth emerge, particularly molars or wisdom teeth, they can cause gum soreness, swelling, and general discomfort, which might be more noticeable at night due to fewer distractions and increased focus on the pain.

8. Late Night Eating

Eating meals late at night can significantly increase the risk of tooth pain while you sleep. When you eat close to bedtime, especially foods high in carbohydrates and sugars, you provide a feast for the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce acids as they digest the food particles left on and between your teeth.

This acid can attack tooth enamel, leading to decay and increased sensitivity. Additionally, because saliva production decreases during sleep, the natural cleansing and neutralizing effect of saliva is diminished, allowing the acids to cause more damage overnight. This can result in waking up with tooth pain or experiencing discomfort throughout the night.

To mitigate this risk, it’s advisable to avoid eating right before bed and to maintain a thorough oral hygiene routine, brushing and flossing to remove food particles and plaque before going to sleep.

Understanding these common causes of nighttime tooth pain is crucial for addressing the discomfort effectively. Identifying the underlying issue is the first step towards finding relief and preventing further damage or pain.

Tooth Pain in the Morning


Waking up to tooth pain in the morning can be just as perplexing and distressing as nighttime pain. Several factors can contribute to this discomfort, some of which are directly related to conditions experienced during sleep. Understanding these can help in mitigating the pain and improving oral health.

Causes Unique to Morning Pain

  • Sleep Position: Sleeping in certain positions, particularly on one side or with the face down, can put pressure on the jaw and teeth, leading to pain in the morning. This pressure can exacerbate existing dental issues or even create new areas of sensitivity.
  • Nighttime Dehydration: Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health, including neutralizing acids produced by bacteria and washing away food particles. During sleep, saliva production decreases, which can lead to a dry mouth. This dehydration can make the teeth more susceptible to decay and pain, which is often felt upon waking.
  • Overnight Mouth Breathing: Breathing through the mouth during sleep, often due to nasal congestion or sleep apnea, can dry out the oral cavity. This not only leads to dehydration but can also irritate the gums and teeth, resulting in morning discomfort.

Relation to Sleep Quality

Poor sleep quality, including disruptions during the night or sleep disorders like sleep apnea, can have a significant impact on dental health. The stress and strain on the body from poor sleep can exacerbate conditions like bruxism (teeth grinding), leading to increased tooth and jaw pain in the morning.

Additionally, sleep apnea often involves repeated episodes of mouth breathing, contributing further to dry mouth and dental discomfort upon waking.

Managing Morning Symptoms

Addressing tooth pain in the morning involves both immediate relief measures and long-term strategies to prevent recurrence:

  • Hydration: Drinking water upon waking can help alleviate dry mouth and flush away acids and bacteria that have built up overnight. Keeping a glass of water by the bed for easy access can be helpful.
  • Gentle Oral Hygiene: Starting the day with gentle brushing and flossing can help soothe sensitive gums and teeth. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth can provide relief.
  • Jaw Exercises: For those experiencing jaw pain due to bruxism or TMJ disorders, gentle jaw exercises and stretches in the morning can help relieve tension and discomfort.
  • Mouth Guards: For individuals who grind their teeth at night, a dentist-prescribed mouth guard can protect the teeth from excessive wear and reduce morning pain.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Persistent morning tooth pain should be evaluated by a dental professional. They can provide targeted treatments and advice based on the specific cause of the discomfort.

By understanding and addressing the unique causes of tooth pain in the morning, individuals can take proactive steps towards improving their oral health and starting their day without discomfort.

Managing and Treating Nighttime Tooth Pain


Effectively managing and treating nighttime tooth pain involves a combination of immediate relief strategies and long-term treatment plans to address the underlying causes. Here’s an expanded overview of ways to alleviate discomfort and prevent future occurrences.

At-Home Remedies

Immediate relief from nighttime tooth pain can often be achieved with simple at-home remedies, though these should not replace professional dental care, especially for persistent or severe issues.

  • Warm Saltwater Rinse: Swishing with a warm saltwater solution can help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria, offering temporary relief from tooth pain.
  • Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress to the outside of the cheek can reduce swelling and numb the pain, particularly if the discomfort is due to injury or inflammation.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can temporarily alleviate tooth pain, but it’s important to use them as directed and consult with a healthcare professional if pain persists.
  • Avoiding Certain Foods: Steering clear of very hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks can prevent exacerbation of the pain.
  • Elevating the Head: Sleeping with the head in a slightly elevated position can help reduce blood pressure in the head and minimize pain.

Professional Treatments

For long-term relief and to address the root cause of nighttime tooth pain, professional dental treatments are often necessary.

  • Fillings and Crowns: Tooth decay and cavities require professional treatment; a dentist may recommend fillings to repair cavities or crowns to cover and protect damaged teeth.
  • Root Canal Therapy: In cases where tooth decay or damage extends to the pulp of the tooth, root canal therapy may be necessary to remove the infected pulp and save the tooth.
  • Gum Disease Treatment: Treatment for gum disease can range from deep cleaning procedures like scaling and root planing to more advanced periodontal therapy, depending on the severity of the disease.
  • Mouth Guards for Bruxism: Custom-fitted mouth guards can protect the teeth from damage due to nighttime grinding (bruxism) and can also help alleviate associated jaw pain.
  • Orthodontic Treatment: Misaligned teeth or a bad bite can contribute to nighttime tooth pain; in some cases, orthodontic treatments like braces or aligners may be recommended to correct these issues.

Lifestyle and Preventive Measures

In addition to specific treatments, making lifestyle adjustments can play a significant role in managing and preventing nighttime tooth pain.

  • Oral Hygiene: Maintaining a rigorous oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash, can prevent many causes of tooth pain.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Biannual dental check-ups and cleanings are crucial for preventing dental issues and catching potential problems early before they lead to pain.
  • Dietary Changes: Reducing the intake of sugary, acidic, and hard foods can help protect your teeth from decay and damage.
  • Stress Management: Since stress can contribute to teeth grinding, finding effective stress relief methods, such as exercise, meditation, or counseling, can be beneficial.

By combining these immediate relief strategies, professional treatments, and preventive measures, you can effectively manage and treat nighttime tooth pain, leading to more restful nights and better overall dental health.


Understanding and addressing the root causes of nighttime tooth pain is essential for both immediate relief and long-term oral health. By adopting a comprehensive approach that includes at-home care, professional dental treatments, and preventive measures, you can alleviate discomfort and protect your teeth.

Don’t let nighttime tooth pain disrupt your sleep and well-being; seek professional guidance to ensure your dental health is on the right track for pain-free nights.

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