After a long day of working hard and caring for the kids, you finally lie down for some much-deserved sleep. Aaaaand you wind up suffering from a toothache at night. Go figure, eh? In between thoughts of how to help your son with his homework, worrying about your daughter who just got her driver’s license, or tomorrow morning’s deadline, suddenly that throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes becomes unbearable. If you’re reading this, you might be desperate for relief. How can you make it stop? And why is this happening in the first place?!
We shed light on nine different ways to treat a toothache at night, which of these strategies are safe for kids, and what might be causing that pesky nocturnal mouth pain.
Why do my teeth hurt at night?
When a person lies down, blood rushes to the head. Pressure from that blood in the area may increase toothache pain caused by a deep cavity. Feeling. Every. Single. Pulse.
Another reason it might feel worse at night? There are fewer physical distractions than in your everyday life. Little stands in the way of you noticing the pain. Sometimes the mere anxiety of knowing that you can’t visit a dentist at night (weekends and holidays can be rough) makes it worse.
How do you get rid of a toothache at night?
Your toothache at night can be a sign of a cavity, broken filling, infected gums, teeth grinding, or a cracked, decayed, or even rotting tooth. It’s vital to see a dentist as soon as possible. These relief strategies are temporary. If left untreated, your toothache could lead to more severe problems.
1. Cloves or Clove Oil
Cloves have anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient, eugenol, will help sedate the tooth. If using a whole clove, apply a couple of small leaves directly to the aching tooth. Let them soften in your mouth, and remove after 15 to 20 minutes. If using clove oil, pour it on a cotton swab like a Q-tip. Apply it to the affected area. This technique could also work with peppermint/peppermint oil, which has a mild numbing effect.
Safe for kids? Yes. Avoid using too much of it or too often. Same for adults. With kids, stick to using clove oil. Can you imagine your little one trying to keep clove leaves on a sore tooth for 20 minutes? Neither can we.
2. Peppermint tea bags
Speaking of peppermint, peppermint tea bags can also do the trick. Put this minty sac inside a cup of hot water. Let it cool down until it’s warm. Then place the tea bag in your mouth on the pained area. For cooling relief, put it in the freezer instead and then on the affected area.
Safe for kids? Absolutely.
3. Cold Compress/Ice Pack/Hot Compress
Hold the compress or ice pack to your cheek. Whether to use cold or hot depends on what works best for you. An ice pack — wrapped in a cloth or a towel to prevent ice burns — can help numb the area and reduce swelling. Frozen fruit and vegetables like peas and berries also work well if you don’t have an icepack on hand.
Safe for kids? Yup.
4. Ice Massage
Here’s a strange research-backed acupressure home remedy for you. It involves putting ice on your hand and not your mouth. Wrap an ice cube in a paper towel. Massage the webbed area between the thumb and index finger on the same side as the toothache. Do this for about five minutes.
Safe for kids? Totally!
5. Sleeping Propped Up
Elevating your body can prevent blood flow to your head. This action relieves the pressure drawn to your mouth when you lay down and can reduce pain and swelling. It might be just enough comfort to get you some sleep.
Safe for kids? You bet.
6. Warm Salt Water Rinse
Cold or very hot drinks can make the pain worse. But a warm salt water rinse is one of the most popular remedies for a toothache at night. Fill a cup with warm water, add enough salt so that no more salt dissolves, and swish the warm salt water around in your mouth or let it sit on the tooth. Spit when finished.
Safe for kids? All good! Do the rinse over the sink to make it easier for your child to spit when they finish.
7. Topical Gels
Try over-the-counter tooth topical gels like Orajel. Look for the gel to have benzocaine and an antiseptic ingredient. Make sure you wash your hands any time you apply it and use it as directed.
Safe for kids? Nope. Don’t use topicals with benzocaine on young children.
8. Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse
Mix three percent hydrogen peroxide with water. Swish in your mouth for 30 seconds. Rinse. DO NOT SWALLOW! This solution will serve as an effective antibacterial mouthwash.
Safe for kids? No way. There is too much of a swallowing risk here.
Allicin is a compound found in fresh garlic that has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It is created when the cloves are crushed, chewed, chopped, or sliced. You will not find allicin in garlic powder. For this treatment to be effective, let the chewed garlic sit on the affected tooth (don’t cram it in). You can also make a paste with crushed garlic and salt. Use a cotton swab to apply the paste to the tooth. Keep in mind that your breath will smell pretty rank after chewing on raw garlic.
Safe for kids? Yes, but chances are your young ones would choose the pain over the taste of raw garlic sitting in their mouth. They may never forgive you.
10. Over-the-Counter Pain Medicine
Try alternating between ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) according to dosage directions to reduce pain and inflammation. Do not exceed recommended dosage. In full disclosure, though, your pain might be too great even for a pain reliever.
Safe for kids? Yes. Don’t attempt the alternating approach. Pick either ibuprofen or acetaminophen and stick with it. Follow recommended dosage instructions for children.
11. Baking Soda with Warm Water
Baking soda not only keeps the fridge fresh but your mouth as well. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, gargling with water and a baking soda solution can help reduce the pain. It minimizes pesky bacteria and plaque that cause toothache. Or damp a washcloth or cotton swab and dip it into a tablespoon of baking soda. Apply it to the tooth until it’s covered. With the leftover baking soda, add some water to it and turn it into a mouthwash.
Safe for kids? Yes.
What about alcohol?
Despite the desire to use spirits for some comfort, alcohol will not kill the pain. It just means you’ll be drunk or hungover at the dentist tomorrow. That’s no fun for anyone. Hopefully, one of these remedies does the trick to get you through your toothache at night. Next step? The dentist!
Does a throbbing tooth mean infection?
If your tooth is throbbing, it could be a sign of infection, but it could also mean your teeth are injured. The reasons can range anywhere between a cracked tooth, cavities, or an abscess. The only way to determine what your throbbing pain means is to visit your dentist so they can give you an accurate diagnosis.
Can I go to the ER for tooth pain?
Tooth pain is the absolute worst, and honestly, sometimes it does feel like you need an ambulance. You should definitely go to the emergency room if the pain is excruciating, spreading to your jaw or neck, you’re struggling to stay conscious, or can’t stop bleeding.
But for minor tooth pain and manageable discomfort, make an appointment with your dentist or take some over-the-counter pain meds. Unfortunately, going into the ER is expensive, so if you don’t need to be in one, wait until the morning and book an emergency dentist appointment.