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Can jaw pain be serious?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A dull, vague pain on the lower left side of your jaw should never be ignored. This pain increases and decreases over the course of a few minutes. In addition, it moves around so you can’t quite pinpoint exactly where it bothers you. Known as “referred pain,” this sensation occurs when the nerves surrounding the heart become agitated, sending pain through the nerves in the spine to other locations in the body, specifically the left jaw, shoulder and arm.

The When to Worry Scale below can help you understand the difference between benign jaw pain such as TMJ, a sinus infection or a toothache, and serious jaw pain associated with a heart attack.

Green Zone: Lowest Risk -- If moving your jaw around (such as while chewing) increases the pain, it’s likely the discomfort has nothing to do with your heart.

Yellow Zone: Medium Risk -- Jaw pain that happens in the morning can be an instance of referred pain and serves as a warning sign that you’re at risk for a heart attack. Your blood is thicker at this time of the day, which causes blood pressure to surge, increasing heart attack risk.

Red Zone: The Highest Risk -- Pain brought on by physical activity can manifest in several areas including the chest, jaw, left arm and shoulder, a scenario that typically indicates you’re having a heart attack. Shortness of breath, a common heart attack symptom in women, may also occur. You may also get additional classic heart attack signs such as dizziness or nausea. In this case, see a doctor immediately.
This content originally appeared on doctoroz.com

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.