Toothache is one of the most discomforting pains you can experience. It is usually intense and occurs alongside sensitivity which makes drinking and eating difficult. Most people who experience toothache also find it difficult to go about their day and function normally.
In most cases, toothaches result from inflammation in the pulp. The pulp in a tooth contains nerve endings that are sensitive to pain, and when exposed, it can cause a constant throbbing and unbearable pain.
What causes toothache?
Toothache can result from an issue in your gums or teeth. Sometimes, health issues in other body parts cause toothache. Some common causes of toothache include:
- Jaw or mouth injury
This may be due to a blunt force trauma to the face.
- Sinus infection
The drainage from a sinus infection may result in tooth pain.
- Tooth decay
Bacteria affecting the teeth can cause decay which exposes the nerves and results in pain.
- Losing a filling
If you lose a dental filling, it may expose the nerve in the tooth, resulting in sensitivity and tooth pain.
- An infected or abscessed tooth
This condition, also known as a dental abscess, is a pocket of pus in the tooth.
- Food or other debris stuck between the teeth
Inorganic and organic particles can get stuck in your teeth, causing pressure between the teeth, resulting in pain.
- Wisdom teeth crowning or teething
If you have wisdom teeth or other teeth are erupting, they may press against other teeth and cause pain.
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
TMJ is a type of jaw pain, but it can affect the teeth.
- Gum disease
Gum diseases like periodontal disease and gingivitis can cause tooth pain.
- Teeth grinding
Clenching or grinding your teeth at night can cause additional tooth pain.
Why is toothache worse at night?
Toothache stimulates the dental nerves, which makes the pain more severe at night. The dental nerve stimulation activates the brain, and this can keep you awake. In some cases, anxiety associated with staying awake can further interfere with your sleep.
The food you eat before sleeping can also increase your toothache. Sugary, acidic, starchy, hot and cold food can worsen toothache at night. Your toothache may seem intense at night due to a lack of activities to cause distractions.
Sometimes, lying down worsens toothache as it causes blood to rush to your head, putting extra pressure on the sensitive parts of your mouth.
Preventing toothache at night
Toothache treatment at home involves managing the pain. The following can help relieve toothache at night and improve your sleep.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication
Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen can help relieve minor tooth pain. Numbing gels and pastes containing benzocaine can help relieve tooth pain so you can sleep. However, do not use products containing benzocaine for children below two years.
- Elevate your head
Keeping your head higher than other parts of your body can reduce blood flow and pressure to your head. When blood accumulates in your head, it can increase toothache, which may keep you awake.
- Avoid eating hard, cold, or acidic food at night
These foods can make cavities worse and trigger a toothache.
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash
Use an antimicrobial mouthwash containing alcohol to numb and disinfect your teeth.
- Use an icepack before sleeping
Get an ice pack, then wrap it in a cloth and place it on the side of your face where you experience the pain. The icepack can help dull the pain until you sleep.
Home remedies to relieve toothache
If you prefer natural remedies, you can try out these home remedies for toothache relief.
- Saltwater rinse
A saltwater rinse is one of the first remedies recommended by doctors to relieve toothache at home. Pour warm water in a glass cup, then slowly stir the salt in it until the salt crystals dissolve and rinse your mouth with this solution about 4 – 5 times daily.
This will help reduce inflammation and make the tissues contract. Saltwater rinse is effective for gum pain and pain caused by something stuck between the gums.
- Clove oil
Clove oil is one of the most common essential oils which provide relief for tooth pain. It is as effective as benzocaine in relieving pain, but its active ingredient is eugenol. Eugenol is available in natural forms and is effective, but its synthetic forms have safety concerns.
Clove oil has antibacterial components that kill off the beneficial bacteria in the mouth, causing an imbalance in the oral microbiome. This makes clove oil unsuitable for use for more than a few days.
To relieve toothache with clove oil, apply a small amount on a piece of tissue or cotton swab, then gently dab on the affected area. Clove oil is more effective when the pain results from an exposed nerve due to a deep cavity.
Applying the clove oil correctly on the affected area is necessary for this treatment to be effective because clove oil only works when you apply the oil close to the pupal tissue.
- Elevate your head
Elevating your head helps reduce blood flow to the affected tooth as increased blood flow can increase pain and swelling. While sleeping, you can keep your head elevated by stacking several pillows or using a wedge-shaped pillow.
- Keep the affected area cold
Placing a plastic Ziploc bag with half ice and half water or frozen peas on the affected area will keep it cold and reduce swelling. You may also decide to use frozen corn syrup in a Ziploc bag since it doesn’t get blocked like ice. Ice wrapped in a cloth is another effective option.
- Garlic paste
Garlic has antibacterial and other medicinal properties that help kill bacteria in the mouth and prevent plaque. It also works as a pain killer. You can use a garlic press to crush raw garlic then, rub the paste on the affected tooth.
- Peppermint tea
Different studies report that peppermint tea has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that help numb pain.
Brew a cup of peppermint tea, and allow it cool before swishing the tea around your mouth. You can add a little ice to cool the tea or press the cooled peppermint tea bag on the affected tooth.
- Knotted floss
If your toothache results from food being stuck between your teeth, you can easily remove the food particle with a piece of knotted floss. First, identify the source of the pain. If you have tender gums close to the space between your teeth, knot a piece of floss to remove the food. Flossing out the stuck food can relieve the pain instantly.
When should you see a dentist?
Ensure you schedule an appointment with your dentist under the following situations;
- The pain lasts for more than 1 – 2 days
- You experience toothache alongside earache, fever and pain while opening your mouth wide
- The pain is severe and unbearable
Treatments for toothache
Treatment for toothache is usually based on the cause of the ache.
- If your toothache is due to a cavity, the dentist will fill the cavity or remove the affected tooth
- If your toothache results from an infected pulp, the dentist may recommend a root canal to remove and replace your pulp with sealing material. This treatment can remove the bacteria accumulated in the root of the teeth that have caused an infection
- If you are experiencing jaw swelling or a fever, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics
- If food got stuck under your gums and caused an infection, you may need a deep cleaning and periodontal therapy, if necessary
Most times, toothache results from tooth decay, so practising good oral hygiene can prevent toothache. Common oral hygiene that can prevent toothache resulting from tooth decay include:
- Flossing at least once every day
- Visiting your dentist often, at least once in six months, for a professional cleaning and check-up
- Brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste
Eating foods low in sugar can also help prevent cavities and tooth decay which may lead to toothache.
If your experience toothache, especially at night, visit your nearest emergency dentist in London to get relief from toothache.