If you experience sudden or gradual jaw pain on one side of your face, it’s normal to be concerned there’s a serious problem causing your discomfort. Although it can indicate a potential complication, it isn’t always something significant. Depending on the cause, you can wait to see your dentist, or you may need to head to the closest hospital. One-sided jaw pain can indicate a heart attack, especially in women. Here’s what you need to know to determine if it’s a dental issue or a medical emergency.
Am I Having a Heart Attack?
Your temporomandibular joint is located on either side of your face, connecting your lower jaw to your skull. It allows you to open and close your mouth and move your jaw back and forth to some degree. As a result, you can speak, chew, and even yawn.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to experience one-sided jaw pain, which can make it difficult to perform simple everyday tasks, like opening your mouth to bite your sandwich. Various factors can contribute to the discomfort, such as a cavity, abscessed tooth, or grinding your teeth at night. Although they are common culprits, the pain can also be caused by a heart attack.
Symptoms of a heart attack are diverse. Many people don’t know certain issues are actually signs of a serious cardiovascular event, like jaw pain. Here are common red flags that might indicate your one-sided facial pain is a potential heart attack:
- Reoccurring chest pain or pressure.
- Tightness or pressure in the chest and arms, which can spread to the back, stomach, neck, and jaw.
- Heartburn or indigestion.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
- Extreme tiredness.
- Dizziness and lightheadedness.
- Sudden cold sweats.
Symptoms of a heart attack can occur suddenly or gradually over several hours or days. If you have jaw pain and any of the above symptoms, it’s best to seek immediate medical treatment.
What If It’s Not a Heart Attack?
If a heart attack isn’t responsible for your discomfort, you might have a TMJ disorder, which occurs when the TM joint doesn’t function properly. It can be caused by many factors, like untreated bruxism, a poor bite, or a past injury. Signs of a TMJ disorder often include:
- Tenderness or pain around your jaw.
- Earache or ringing ears.
- Clicking, popping, or grating sound when opening and closing the mouth.
- Mouth locking in an opened or closed position.
Stop Your Jaw Pain Today
Whether it’s a TMJ disorder or a heart attack, don’t ignore jaw pain. Although it isn’t likely anything too concerning, it’s best to seek the advice of a professional to rule out a more serious issue.
About Dr. Julia White
Dr. White earned her dental degree from the Medical College of Virginia before continuing her training in cosmetic dentistry, occlusion, and complex dental cases, like emergency dentistry. As a member of various professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, she has the qualifications you can trust. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.