Over the years we’ve re-posted from Carolyn Thomas’ blog Heart Sisters because they are always informative, well-researched and well written. Her latest post on unusual pain that shows up in the mouth, jaw or face – what dentists call “orofacial pain” – can be a cardiac warning sign really caught my attention. Here’s a few highlight but I recommend you reading the entire post and click here:
“Orofacial pain of cardiac origin is typically a toothache that occurs spontaneously, and is usually made worse with exercise (just as the chest pain of stable angina typically comes on with exertion, and eases up with rest).”
“Unlike a conventional toothache caused by dental issues, the tooth or jaw pain that’s linked to heart issues can decrease when the coronary vasodilator called nitroglycerin is taken, and can also occur at the same time along with chest, neck, shoulder or throat pain.”
“Researchers in Barcelona, for example, found that orofacial pain that’s actually heart-related – unlike toothache pain – you may feel the pain on both sides of the face. The lead author of the study explained that orofacial pain of cardiac origin is considered to be atypical, but present in up to 10% of all people during a heart attack, with or without chest pain.”
- “When these orofacial pain of cardiac origin occur, unnecessary dental treatment is often performed“
- “There are published clinical cases of patients who have undergone unnecessary dental extractions or have been prescribed pain medications due to misdiagnosis, without curing the orofacial pain.
- This leads to a delay in a cardiac diagnosis, and consequently, a delay in beginning necessary treatment.”
Looking into “Cavities” by Peggy
The signs suggesting that a toothache may be more than just a simple toothache include:
- a burning or pulsing pain
- a pain that goes into remission, or dramatically changes
- a persistent pain during days or months
- a spontaneous pain in multiple teeth
- a pain that does not go into remission even after anaesthetic block (freezing)
- lack of response to adequate dental treatment
Open wide! Cardiac symptoms diagnosed in the dental chair
Carolyn wrote more about both atypical cardiac symptoms and many other typical symptoms in Chapter 1 of her book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” (Johns Hopkins University Press, November 2017)
From birth we are constantly, chronically losing our identities. As we grow and develop those loses are generally seen as positive and things to look forward to: Losing our dependency of childhood; being able to drive; setting out on our own. I liken these types of losses to waves that are constant and ubiquitous.
With loss that involves tragedy or illness, the sense of who we are is wrested from us – more like a sudden tsunami than relentless waves . . .
Heart Sisters is a blog I’ve followed for several years. Carolyn Thomas, the blogger, suffered a “widow-maker heart attack” and has devoted her time and energy to educating women, clinicians and the public about woman’s heart issues.
In an excellent post Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’ Carolyn references Dr. Kathy Charmaz
“When California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied the subject of suffering among those living with chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often overlooked by health care providers.(1) As she explained her findings:”
“A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones.
“The experiences and meanings upon which these ill persons had built former positive self-images are no longer available to them.”
“Dr. Charmaz also found that this profound sense of having lost the “self” you used to be before being diagnosed is generally the result of both external and internal influences on how we view ourselves. “
Click below and read the entire post:
Carolyn’s post spoke to me personally on several levels:
- As a psychotherapist I spent 30 years trying to help others adjust to “loss of self”.
- Ten years into my private practice I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – my own tsunami.
- When I retired my “loss of self” was not a tsunami but the wave was at least a 20 footer.