Chest Pain and Dental Care

Can chest pain accompany dental problems or is it always a sign of a heart attack? My mother is getting older and doesn’t enjoy dentists. I have trouble getting her there unless she has a toothache. This time she’s mentioned her chest hurts too. When I mentioned taking her to the doctor she said not to bother that it’s happened with other toothaches. Is that connected or is she avoiding the doctor on top of the dentist?


Dear Elisabeth,

Woman holding her jaw in pain from TMJ

While there is a link between oral health and cardiovascular health, chest pain should never be ignored. Ever. I think it is important you have your mother seen right away by a doctor to be safe.

About 10% of heart attacks report jaw pain as a symptom. Though, that is usually throughout the jaw and not localized to a single tooth. The most common description is pain throughout the lower jaw. Some people describe this pain but don’t have any accompanying chest pains, yet they were still having a heart attack. It is always better to have pain looked at. Each person’s anatomy and responses vary. There isn’t a single common symptom to look out for.

Some Other Symptoms of a Heart Attachk

The Mayo Clinic gives other signs of a heart attack to be aware of:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
  • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness

Oral Health’s Connection with Heart Health

A number of studies have shown that people with gum disease are at a much higher risk of both heart disease and diabetes. The converse is true as well. Those with heart disease and diabetes seem to be at a greater risk of gum disease.

You said your mother tends to wait until she is in pain to deal with her dental health. Not only is oral care by dental emergency a painful and dangerous way to function, it puts her at a much greater risk of periodontal problems which will negatively impact her cardiovascular health. Not to mention that severe gum disease will lead to her losing her teeth!

If she avoids the dentist because of anxiety, she is not alone. Fortunately, there is a solution. Look on reviews of dentists to see who is considered gentle. For instance, with Dr. Burba, most children can’t even tell he gave them a shot. That’s the type of dentist your mother may need.

This blog is brought to you by Salem, MA Dentist Dr. Randall Burba.