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Why do my teeth hurt when I wake up?

Finding the cause of a toothache or sore jaw can prove frustrating.

Especially if you are already in pain when you wake up in the morning. In most cases, however, tooth pain can result from a few common causes. Discover the reasons behind why your teeth may hurt when you wake up and learn how you can stop waking up with a toothache.

Sinus infections

When you suffer from a sinus infection, you’ll almost certainly feel pain in your head and nose. This type of discomfort can surface in your teeth, given that your sinuses are above your teeth. Keep in mind that a sinus infection doesn’t typically cause an isolated toothache in one single tooth.1 Instead, an infection usually leads to more general discomfort in your upper back teeth.

Since a sinus infection can cause fluids to collect as you sleep, the resulting pressure can make you wake up with a toothache. Try taking an over-the-counter decongestant to relieve the pain or talk with your doctor for a stronger solution.

Periodontal disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, ranges in seriousness from minor inflammation to major tissue and tooth loss. Periodontal disease results from plaque hardening on your teeth and leading to tartar buildup, which irritates your gums and gradually causes them to pull away.

Although you might feel discomfort from periodontal disease throughout the day, the sensation can become particularly painful as you try to relax at night.

If you notice gum inflammation or discomfort, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Only a professional dental cleaning can remove tartar, and your dentist can also recommend extra care for your gums and teeth.

Sleeping positions

In some cases, the way you sleep can lead to discomfort in your teeth and jaw. For instance, sleeping with your hand directly under your jaw can cause discomfort, especially if you wear rings or bracelets while you slumber.

If you suspect your sleeping position is the primary cause of the soreness in your teeth, take note of where the pain feels most intense. Is the discomfort concentrated on one side of your mouth? If so, that could be a sign that your typical sleeping position is the culprit. 

To avoid your hands or other objects near your face causing discomfort, remove jewelry before you go to sleep. Place a supportive pillow directly underneath your head and try not to allow your hands to touch your face while sleeping.

Teeth grinding

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a relatively common sleep disorder that affects about 10 percent of adults.2 Although you might not realize that you grind your teeth while you sleep, a common sign that you suffer from this condition is regularly waking up with a sore jaw or a headache.

Along with overnight and morning pain, teeth grinding can lead to other problems, such as eroded tooth enamel and damaged fillings and crowns. If you think you suffer from bruxism, schedule a visit with your dentist and explore some solutions, such as wearing a mouth guard while you sleep.

Identify the cause of the pain in your teeth 

Waking up with soreness in your teeth or jaw is unpleasant. In most cases, however, the cause can be easily determined. If you suspect teeth grinding, gum disease, or cavities are causing your oral distress, consult with your dentist to pinpoint the cause and find a healthy solution. If you have concerns about your current dental insurance coverage for treatments, it is important to review your policy.

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1. (Last accessed December 2019)
2. (Last accessed December 2019)

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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