7 Reasons for Tooth Pain in the Morning

7 Reasons for Tooth Pain in the Morning

There are many reasons for tooth pain in the morning. If you wake up with a throbbing ache in your mouth, there could be any number of causes, ranging from dental issues to sinus infections. In this blog post we will explore 7 possible reasons why you might have tooth pain when you first wake up.


One might wake up with a throbbing ache in their mouth if they have a cavity. Cavities occur when teeth degrade from bacteria causing decay in the enamel. Cavities that go untreated can grow worse until bacteria reaches the interior of a tooth, allowing it to invade your nerves and produce excruciating discomfort. This is known as a pulp infection.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is another possible cause of tooth pain in the morning. Gum disease occurs when the gums and the bone that surrounds your teeth (the jawbone) become infected. The infection can then cause severe gum recession and progressive bone loss around your teeth in the advanced stages. This can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, loose teeth, mouth infections, and other complications.

woman grinding her teeth while sleeping


Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching of teeth. It is caused by stress, and often occurs at night while sleeping. Sometimes bruxism progresses into a nightly habit which can lead to severe dental problems, such as TMD. Bruxism is a common cause of morning tooth pain and it has also been associated with ear pain, facial pain, and morning headaches.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)

TMD is an oral health disorder which affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), also known as the jaw joint. The TMJ connects the lower jaw to the skull and holds it in place while chewing food. TMD can affect one or both joints, but most cases are associated with pain on only one side of the face that worsens when opening or closing their mouth. This can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, loose teeth, mouth infections, and other complications.


A sinus infection is another possible cause of morning tooth pain. Sinusitis is caused by inflammation and congestion of the sinuses and typically manifests as a white, thick nasal discharge. Symptoms of sinusitis include fever, facial pressure, coughs, and sore throats. There can be a number of reasons for this, such as allergies or an upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold or flu. When these viruses result in swelling in the sinuses, there will be inflammation and congestion that will lead to pain in the face and around the teeth when you first wake up.

Tooth Impaction

Tooth impaction is another cause of tooth pain in the morning. This is when a wisdom tooth has grown partially or fully into the gum line, but doesn’t break through the gingival (gum) tissue. Tooth impaction can often result in swelling and inflammation, resulting in pain upon first waking up. Impaction is also commonly seen when the maxillary canines erupt. Impaction can lead to infection or damage to the surrounding teeth, so it should always be evaluated by a dentist.

Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess is another possible cause of severe tooth pain in the morning. An abscess occurs when the root of a tooth becomes infected. An infection that reaches the pulp of a tooth can be very painful and will often manifest with swelling, redness, and throbbing. This is because the nerves in teeth are inside the tooth’s pulp, so bacteria can invade the nerve and produce excruciating discomfort. A dentist or specialist will need to be seen for treatment of the abscess.


There are many causes of tooth pain in the morning. The more you know about your symptoms, the easier it will be to determine the cause and seek treatment. If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for an extended period of time without relief, schedule a visit with your dentist as soon as possible so that we can help identify and treat what may be going on inside your mouth.


Dr. Deborah TabbPatients at Bethesda Family Dentistry benefit from the knowledge and experience that only comes from a diverse team. From general dentistry to endodontic, periodontics, and cosmetic dental services, this Bethesda, MD clinic is ready to be the only source you need for all your oral health needs.