If an individual is experiencing jaw pain, they must seek urgent medical attention, as it can indicate a heart attack. Jaw pain can occur as pain radiates or spreads from the chest to other areas of the body. An individual could also experience radiating pain in their spine, arms, back, neck, or stomach.

Other typical signs of a heart attack include uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, or pain in the chest, nausea, cold sweats, and lightheadedness.

However, jaw pain can signify various other health conditions, such as arthritis, a physical trauma, dental issues, and problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

This article explores the link between jaw pain and heart attacks. It also looks at other potential causes of jaw pain and when to seek emergency medical care.

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Yes, a heart attack can cause jaw pain. However, it does not directly cause jaw pain. Rather, the cardiac pain can radiate to the jaw.

Doctors need to consider an individual’s symptoms when determining whether their jaw pain is due to a heart attack or something else.

One of the most common symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. Typically, the discomfort lasts for a couple of minutes, or it goes away and returns. An individual may describe the pain as an uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, pain, or fullness.

Radiated pain can cause other symptoms of a heart attack. When pain radiates, it affects the nerves and spreads from the original pain points to other areas of the body. For example, during a heart attack, an individual may experience radiating pain in their jaw, back, one or both arms, neck, and stomach.

A person having a heart attack may feel short of breath. Therefore, if they are experiencing jaw pain in combination with shortness of breath, it is reasonable to suspect a heart attack.

Additional signs of a heart attack include:

  • nausea
  • breaking out in a cold sweat
  • lightheadedness

Symptoms tend to begin slowly, with only mild discomfort or pain. However, the presence of these symptoms along with jaw pain requires an emergency medical evaluation.

The warning signs of a heart attack vary between females and males, especially the presence of jaw pain. While both males and females can experience chest pain or discomfort, other symptoms may differ.

For instance, females are more likely to experience other atypical heart attack symptoms, including:

  • jaw pain
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea or vomiting

Jaw pain can occur due to a variety of conditions that are unrelated to a heart attack. They may include physical injuries, arthritis, and dental problems.

TMJ disorders

The TMJ is situated at the side of the face and connects the jaw to the side of the head, allowing a person to talk, yawn, and chew.

Individuals with TMJ disorders may experience the following symptoms:

Learn more about TMJ disorders here.

Neuralgia

Neuralgia is a type of nerve problem that causes sharp, shooting pain. The condition can occur if nerves have become damaged or irritated.

Health experts call neuralgia that affects the jaw trigeminal neuralgia. This involves irritation of the trigeminal nerve.

People with trigeminal neuralgia typically experience an intense, electric shock-like pain on one side of the face. While initially it may be mild, it can progress if left untreated.

Learn more about neuralgia here.

Bruxism

Bruxism is a condition where a person grinds and clenches their teeth. It is most common when an individual is awake, although it can also happen while they are sleeping.

Typical signs of bruxism include:

The pain develops because the muscles tighten when a person clenches and grinds their teeth.

Learn more about bruxism here.

Coronary artery disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that coronary artery disease (CAD) results from a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries responsible for transporting blood to the heart. The plaque causes the arteries to narrow, making it harder for the blood to flow freely.

According to the CDC, CAD is the most commonly occurring type of heart disease in the United States. Yet, an individual may be unaware that they have the condition until they have a heart attack.

However, CAD has other signs and symptoms, the most common of which is angina. This is chest discomfort and pain that stems from reduced blood flow. If a person has a severe angina attack, the pain may spread to their arms, neck, back, and jaw.

Typically, CAD symptoms are not apparent before a heart attack. Therefore, individuals should be aware of the risk factors for CAD and consult a doctor about whether they are at risk.

Main risk factors include:

Learn more about CAD here.

Temporal arteritis

Temporal arteritis, which health experts now refer to as giant cell arteritis, is a condition where the blood vessels in the temporal region of the head become inflamed. It can cause jaw pain, most often when a person chews.

In addition to jaw pain, temporal arteritis may lead to one-sided vision loss, which may or may not be reversible.

Other symptoms include:

Learn more about temporal arteritis here.

If an individual experiences any symptoms of a heart attack, they should always seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Even if a person is unsure whether their symptoms are due to a heart attack or not, they should contact emergency services right away, as every minute matters when it comes to heart attacks.

A medical team can begin treating an individual as soon as they arrive on the scene, which is much more rapid than if the individual goes to the hospital on their own.

People should not hesitate to seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms that could indicate a heart attack.

Jaw pain is one of several symptoms of a heart attack, with the most common being chest pain or discomfort.

When a doctor assesses a person’s jaw pain, they use the person’s other symptoms to determine whether the jaw pain is due to a heart attack or another condition.

Other causes of jaw pain include TMJ disorders, neuralgia, bruxism, CAD, and temporal arteritis.

Every minute matters when it comes to heart attacks, and therefore a person should seek emergency medical attention if they or someone else experiences jaw pain or other heart attack symptoms.