ZocdocAnswersDull ache in left jaw for a year, what could it be?

Question

Dull ache in left jaw for a year, what could it be?

I've had symptoms of congestive heart failure, including abdominal plethora, swelling of the ankles, and chest tightness. Thus, I presumed that the uncomfortableness in the left jaw was "referred pain" from my heart. However, from what I have read, it seems that this pain is usually acute, just prior to a heart attack (which I've never had), and doesn't last for a year. Moreover, the dull ache is entirely at the jaw joint, near the ear, is less bad in the morning, and has not subsided even as my other symptoms of CHF have greatly decreased. There is nothing at the lower jaw. Based on my description, do you think this is heart-related, or something like TMJ?

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you have been dealing with congestive heart failure, and have had a dull ache in your jaw for about a year. You are correct that jaw pain can be from 'referred pain' from the heart, but this typically happens in the setting of heart irritation (such as during an acute myocardial infarction or heart attack). It will be hard for me to tell you exactly what is going on without being able to take more of a history and examine you, but I am happy to give you some of my initial thoughts about what might be going on. Ultimately to get the most accurate answer, I would recommend that you make an appointment with a dentist that specializes in temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), or with an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) physician. It is possible that your symptoms are actually from TMJ and not at all related to your CHF. If this were the case, your symptoms would typically be worse with use (thus they would be worse at the end of the day), and better with rest. This could explain why your symptoms are better in the morning. A TMJ specialist would be able to evaluate you and tell you if you have some dysfunction with your TMJ. I wish you all the best.

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