Quality Difference in Craniofacial Pain of Cardiac vs. Dental Origin

J Dent Res. 2010 Sep;89(9):965-9. doi: 10.1177/0022034510370820. Epub 2010 May 6.


Craniofacial pain, whether odontogenic or caused by cardiac ischemia, is commonly referred to the same locations, posing a diagnostic challenge. We hypothesized that the validity of pain characteristics would be high in assessment of differential diagnosis. Pain quality, intensity, and gender characteristics were assessed for referred craniofacial pain from dental (n = 359) vs. cardiac (n = 115) origin. The pain descriptors "pressure" and "burning" were statistically associated with pain from cardiac origin, while "throbbing" and "aching" indicated an odontogenic cause. No gender differences were found. These data should now be added to those craniofacial pain characteristics already known to point to acute cardiac disease rather than dental pathology, i.e., pain provocation/aggravation by physical activity, pain relief at rest, and bilateralism. To initiate prompt and appropriate treatment, dental and medical clinicians as well as the public should be alert to those clinical characteristics of craniofacial pain of cardiac origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Causalgia
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Facial Pain / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / complications*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Referred*
  • Pressure
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Toothache / diagnosis*
  • Young Adult