If you’ve been having ONLY jaw pain, a heart attack or imminent heart attack needs to be ruled out.

Certainly you’ve heard that a heart attack or a pending cardiac event can cause both chest and jaw pain, or that it can cause a triad of symptoms: chest, arm and jaw pain.

But Can a Heart Attack Cause Pain Only in the Jaw?

“Typical symptoms of a heart attack include discomfort in the chest, excessive sweating, nausea, weakness and shortness of breath,” says Nichole M. Polin, MD, FACC, Director, Cardio-Oncology Clinic, Ochsner Health System.

“The chest discomfort can often radiate to the jaw or left arm,” continues Dr. Polin.

It can also radiate to the back and/or abdomen.

Dr. Polin adds, “Jaw pain alone can be a presenting symptom of a heart attack, especially in women, as women more often have atypical presentations of a heart attack than men.

“Other causes of jaw pain, however, need to be kept in mind such as orthodontic or periodontic disease, TMJ disease and reflux.”

In the case of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, the patient might also have pain when opening the mouth, chewing or clenching down on their bite.

Regular dental checkups will help a person stay on top of any developing TMJ disorder, so that if down the road, jaw pain occurs — that person will know that it’s probably not from a TMJ problem.

Also keep in mind that just because a person has a benign condition that’s causing new-onset jaw pain doesn’t rule out the possibility that a heart problem is also contributing to some of that mandibular pain – even if there are no other symptoms.

So you can have both a heart attack in progress (or jaw symptoms of a pending heart attack) — while at the same time an undiagnosed TMJ disorder or acid reflux disease.

dr. polin
Dr. Polin is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, ABIM – cardiovascular disease, ABIM – interventional cardiology and certification board of nuclear cardiology. ochsner.org/services/heart-vascular-services
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Damir Khabirov