The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grants disability benefits to veterans based on a rating system. This VA benefits rating system categorizes medical conditions to establish disability compensation. PTSD, stress, and other service-related conditions can cause veterans to develop bruxism or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). A VA disability rating for bruxism is only offered as a secondary service condition while a VA disability rating for TMJ can be offered as a primary or secondary service condition.
If you’re a veteran, you might wonder if conditions such as bruxism, TMJ, sleep apnea, and other related sleep disorders are covered by VA compensation. Learn more below about how to achieve disability compensation for TMJ and bruxism.
Does the VA Provide Support for Veterans Who Suffer from Teeth Grinding?
Depending on what caused your bruxism or TMJ, you may be eligible for veterans benefits through the VA. Based on your situation, the VA may rate your TMJ as a direct service connection or a secondary service connection. Bruxism, however, is rated as a secondary condition, typically of the mental health condition post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Meaning, you can only receive compensation for bruxism if it is classified as a direct result of PTSD suffered from active duty.
In order to receive compensation, you must prove that you have been diagnosed with bruxism or TMJ and that there is a direct military service connection. Additionally, the severity of the condition will dictate if you get compensation and how much. The VA considers TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) a disability. However, bruxism is not always considered a disability, depending on symptoms and severity regarding to VA disability rating for bruxism.
Some considerations that may impact your rating include your ability to eat regular food as well as how far you can open your mouth. Additionally, they might assess whether your condition impacts individual unemployability (TDIU).
How to Achieve Disability Compensation for TMJ and Bruxism
TMJ (TMD) is rated under the VA schedule of rating disabilities for Dental and Oral Conditions under the Diagnostic Code 9905.
For VA disability claims of either TMJ or bruxism, you may be asked to provide medical records such as x-rays, MRIs, or a diagnosis from a dentist or healthcare provider. To diagnose bruxism or TMJ, doctors might look for symptoms such as tinnitus, limited range of motion in the jaw, loss of teeth, clicking/locking of the jaw, or damage to the jaw bone.
Another way to receive compensation is to establish TMJ as a secondary service connection to PTSD. In this case, stress from PTSD directly causes a TMJ disorder. If you try to get compensation this way, you might be able to get a higher rating, and in turn, more compensation.
Veteran service-related bruxism can be established as a secondary service condition to sleep apnea to achieve a higher rating as well.
For those who only have bruxism, and not TMJ, the only option to receive compensation is as a secondary service connection. If this is the case for you, be sure to first establish a primary condition that can be connected to bruxism. Your healthcare provider will need to demonstrate evidence that your bruxism is related to a primary service condition such as PTSD or sleep apnea. Sometimes it is difficult for providers to determine a direct cause of bruxism, so it’s important to identify this before you seek disability compensation.
How Does the VA Disability Rating System Work?
The VA assigns a disability rating based on the severity of your disability and how much the disability affects your overall health. It is expressed as a percent rating. This percentage represents all of the veteran’s service-connected conditions and how much the disability affects your health, and it also determines your compensation rate.
According to the VA, your disability rating is based on the following rating criteria: “the evidence you give us (like a doctor’s report or medical test results), the results of your VA claim exam (also called a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam) if we determine you need this exam, and other information we may get from other sources (like federal agencies).” Be sure to have all this information in line before seeking VA disability rating for bruxism or TMJ and disability compensation for either of them.
Bruxism, TMJ, and the Connection to Stress
Bruxism is a condition commonly referred to as teeth grinding. If you have bruxism, you may consciously or subconsciously grind and clench your teeth. Although it is often difficult to find one single cause, the condition is closely associated with stress and mental disorders.
TMJ is a related condition in which your jaw joint doesn’t work correctly. Similarly, TMJ can be related to stress. Both conditions can cause symptoms such as headaches, chronic pain, sore jaw, and earaches.
In veterans, both of these conditions are often related to stress. A 2020 study titled Bruxism and Stress Among Veterans With Gulf War Illness (GWI) made the following conclusion, “GWI veterans reported higher levels of perceived stress in comparison with that of general population males. Both the high frequency of teeth grinding and clenching in these patients is a potential physical manifestation of the high perceived stress levels reported” (Carter & McKenzie 2020). If you have either bruxism or TMJ as a result of your time served, it is well within your right to seek compensation for your disability.
Similarly, a 2014 study found that war veterans with PTSD have higher rates of TMJ symptoms than people with PTSD who were not in a war. (Mottaghi & Zamani 2014)
Getting Disability Compensation for Bruxism as a Veteran
If you have developed TMJ or bruxism as a result of serving your country, you may seek disability compensation. The VA disability rating for bruxism and TMJ exists to provide support for these veterans. The VA rates TMJ as both a direct service connection and a secondary service connection depending on the cause of your TMJ. Bruxism, on the other hand, is only rated as a secondary service connection, typically as a result of PTSD.
For compensation purposes, to achieve disability for either condition, you need to prove your diagnosis. The VA may also ask for other documentation such as a VA claim exam. If you are unsure if you’re eligible for compensation, visit your doctor for a professional medical opinion
For those who have been diagnosed with bruxism, protecting your teeth is important. Pro Teeth Guard offers custom-fit mouthguards online for an affordable price. Our night guards are made in a dental lab using professional materials and processes. Wearing a night guard can reduce your bruxism symptoms and improve your quality of life.
- Carter, K., & McKenzie, C. T. (2020). Bruxism and Stress Among Veterans With Gulf War Illness. Military medicine, usaa374. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/milmed/usaa374
- Code of Federal Regulations. eCFR National Archives. (2017). https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-38/chapter-I/part-4/subpart-B/subject-group-ECFR2dd591a51640425/section-4.150
- Mottaghi, A., & Zamani, E. (2014). Temporomandibular joint health status in war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of education and health promotion, 3, 60. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC41139...
- Veterans Affairs Writing Staff. (2020). About VA disability ratings. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. https://www.va.gov/disability/about-disability-ratings/