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What’s the Connection Between Jaw Pain and Heart Attacks?

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man suffering from jaw pain

Picture this: You’re enjoying lunch when an unexpected jaw ache strikes. You shrug it off, blaming an overly hard crust or perhaps an excessively enthusiastic bite. But what if there’s more to it?

Pain can be a cryptic messenger, delivering distress signals from parts of the body you’d least suspect. This signal might not always land in the chest in a heart attack. Instead, it can play hide and seek, camouflaging as seemingly innocent jaw pain.

Jaw pain is typically associated with dental issues or tension. Heart disease, one of the leading causes of death globally, usually conjures images of chest pain and left arm discomfort. The link between the two may not be obvious, but it’s a connection that science is rapidly shedding light on.

This compelling correlation between jaw pain and heart attacks offers a new lens to view and understand cardiovascular health. It urges us to consider signs beyond the typical symptoms, thus enabling more timely interventions.

What Causes a Heart Attack?

In order to fully grasp the association between heart attacks and jaw pain, we need to first dive deep into what actually transpires during a heart attack, or to use the more clinical term, a myocardial infarction.

Picture a heart attack as the unfortunate result of a traffic jam in the body’s internal highways – the blood vessels. Specifically, this congestion usually takes place in the coronary arteries, the vital pathways that transport life-sustaining, oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. The culprit behind this gridlock? Buildups of fatty substances, dubbed as plaques.

Here’s where it gets grim. If a plaque bursts, it sets off a series of events that lead to the formation of a blood clot right there on its surface. The consequence? A blockade in the artery halts the blood flow. With the heart muscle deprived of its essential oxygen and nutrient supply, parts of it start to perish. This process manifests as the chest pain that’s become the hallmark of a heart attack.

Jaw Pain in Heart Attacks: It’s All About the Nervous System

When it comes to heart attacks, jaw pain is more common than you might think. Many heart attack patients report experiencing jaw pain, sometimes even before the traditional chest pain creeps in. In fact, studies show that approximately 10 percent of heart attack discomfort manifests primarily in the facial area of both the jaw and teeth.

But why does this happen? The answer lies within our intricate nervous system. Our body is a vast interconnected network, an elaborate map of highways carrying sensory information. When the heart is in trouble, it sends distress signals via these nerve highways. However, due to a phenomenon known as referred pain, these signals can get rerouted, creating sensations in areas that are distant from the heart.

The heart and the jaw share a common pathway in this nervous system network. As a result, the brain can mistakenly interpret a heart problem as a jaw issue.

Now, think about jaw pain as an unconventional early warning system. Far from being an errant player, the jaw’s distress signals could potentially buy crucial time for someone experiencing a heart attack, prompting early medical intervention and, thus, improving survival odds.

The High Stakes of Overlooking Untraditional Heart Attack Signs

Misdiagnosing a heart attack can have severe consequences, occurring in up to 27% of cases in developed countries. Alarmingly, a quarter of these errors lead to fatal complications.

Notably, heart attacks that present without the classic chest pain or characteristic changes in an electrocardiogram are often overlooked. The result? These patients face a risk of death three times greater than those who seek emergency care due to chest pain.

Moreover, patients experiencing non-chest pain symptoms have a one-year mortality rate twice as high as those with chest pain alone. This emphasizes the urgent need to recognize unconventional warning signs like jaw pain, which could be a crucial, lifesaving alert of a heart attack.

What Does Jaw Pain Associated with A Heart Attack Feel Like?

During a heart attack, jaw pain is often described as oppressive and aching, contrasting a toothache’s pulsatile and sharp character. While toothaches typically appear more intense, the intensity of heart-related jaw pain amplifies the closer it is to the heart.

This jaw pain can appear spontaneously and severely, often encompassing multiple regions of the face, including the throat, jaw, or even ears. Intriguingly, jaw pain from a heart attack tends to be bilateral, meaning it’s felt on both sides, a striking difference from the one-sided nature of dental pain.

The challenge of telling apart jaw pain from a heart attack and other causes stems from how complex our nervous system is. Sometimes, jaw pain related to heart problems might not come with chest pain, especially in women, making it harder to diagnose. Spotting these unique signs is vital to prevent delays in diagnosing heart disease and avoid unnecessary dental procedures, potentially saving lives.

If jaw pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, breaking out in a cold sweat, or lightheadedness, it warrants immediate medical attention. These symptoms may begin subtly, but individuals experiencing a combination of symptoms might be having a heart attack.

1. Is jaw pain during a heart attack one-sided?

While jaw pain related to a heart attack can occur on one side, this pattern is not exclusive. Jaw pain can appear on either the left or right side or even both. In fact, studies show that it’s often bilateral. The sudden onset or change in the pattern of the pain is more important than its location.

2. Is jaw pain during a heart attack in the upper and lower jaw?

While jaw pain during a heart attack can occur in the upper and lower jaw, it tends to affect the lower jaw with more discomfort. Again, the pain’s unexpected, sudden, and unexplained nature, rather than the specific location, is key.

3. How do I know if my jaw pain is a heart attack?

Jaw pain from a heart attack often comes with other symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, breaking out in a cold sweat, or nausea.

However, sometimes these symptoms might not appear, especially in women. The pain may also differ, often described as an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or tightness. If your jaw pain is sudden, unexplained, and accompanied by these symptoms, seek emergency medical attention.

4. Does jaw pain always accompany a heart attack?

No, not always. While jaw pain can be a sign of a heart attack, it appears to occur in only 10-15 percent of cases. Heart attack symptoms can vary significantly between individuals. That’s why it’s crucial to be aware of all the possible signs of a heart attack, not just chest or jaw pain.

5. Does the severity of jaw pain indicate the seriousness of a heart attack?

Not necessarily. The severity of jaw pain does not directly correlate with the severity of the heart attack. A severe heart attack can occur with minimal or even no jaw pain. Conversely, a person can experience severe jaw pain due to causes unrelated to the heart.

Next Steps

The unexpected interconnection between the jaw and the heart provides us with a new perspective on heart attack symptoms. It reminds us of how our bodies can express distress subtly and even surprisingly, emphasizing the importance of vigilance and attentiveness to unusual signs of potential issues.

The most effective course of action, however, is preventing a heart attack from occurring in the first place. It’s essential to prioritize Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well each and every day.

To help guide you through this journey towards a healthier heart, we recommend a free 20-minute consultation call with a Natural Heart Doctor health coach. Our coaches specialize in natural prevention strategies and can provide personalized advice and tips. Whether you’re seeking to prevent a first heart attack or prevent a recurrence, our Natural Heart Doctor coaches can offer insights to empower you toward achieving your 1oo year heart.

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About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

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About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

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Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.