Why is toothache is worse at night?

Drawquest -- Creature has a toothache by Alison Lait, on Flickr“…I’ve been living with toothache this week, and moved eight time zones. My (worse) night pain moved 8 hours as well. Why is it worse when I sleep?”

I think we’ve all been there: you get through the day with a mild throbbing and bit of an ache here and there, but the night really ends up hurting you fillings.

But why?

Well, incidentally, there is more than one answer:

  1. Change of angle
    When you lie down flat, blood can flow more freely into your head. This turns up the pressure on your teeth, and – if you already have a bit of a swelling somewhere – it also leads to pain. Adding an extra pillow or two can help to reduce the pressure.
  2. Change of focus
    From a psychological standpoint, distraction can really take the edge of physical pain. After bedtime, you no longer have work, friends and entertainment keeping your mind busy, so your toothache can creep out of the shadows and into the limelight.
  3. Are you a grinder?
    Around 8% of adults grind their teeth in their sleep. Bruxism is often caused by stress and would easily aggravate your toothache. If in doubt, go see your dentist. Generally you can reduce symptoms by reducing your stress levels…and if that doesn’t work: go get yourself a toothguard. They come in all sorts of trendy colours.

Although the most common causes of toothache are cavities and gum disease, there’s a chance it could be flagging something more serious. So, if the pain persists, you know the drill…go see a dentist! Hopefully they can put a smile back on your face.

Answer by Isabel Hutchison

Question from Tim via Facebook

Image: Alison Lait, on Flickr

Article by Stuart Farrimond

April 7, 2014

Doctor Stu is editor of Guru Magazine. He originally trained as a medical doctor before deciding to branch out into lecturing, writing, editing and science communication. He drinks far too much coffee, eats lots of ice cream and has a bizarre love of keeping fit.
You can check out Doctor Stu’s blog at realdoctorstu.com or his poncy personal website stuartfarrimond.com. Here's his .

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