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Understanding VA Disability Options for TMJ

Updated: Apr 5



Your temporomandibular joint is a type of sliding hinge. It connects your skull and jawbone. If you are suffering from a TMJ disorder, it can cause significant pain in the jaw joint and the muscles used to control jaw movement. In most situations, the discomfort and pain related to TMJ dysfunction are temporary. As a result, it can often be self-managed and eliminated using various nonsurgical methods.

In most cases, surgery is a last resort and only considered once the other options have failed. However, some people have a TMJ disorder that may benefit from surgery.

Signs and Symptoms of TMJ Dysfunction

Knowing if you are dealing with a TMJ issue is the first step in this process. Some of the top signs of this condition include:

  • Tenderness or pain in the jaw

  • Aching facial pain

  • Pain in one or both temporomandibular joints

  • Joint locking making it hard to close or open the mouth

  • Aching pain around or in the ear

  • Clicking sounds when chewing or opening your mouth

TMJ dysfunction may be painful if the shock-absorbing disk erodes or if it moves out of proper alignment. Other causes of pain include an injury or if the cartilage is damaged by arthritis.

Service Connection for Cases of TMJ

Before you can receive VA benefits for your TMJ, you must establish a service connection to the condition. There are several types of service connection, but two are more common in cases of TMJ.

The Direct Service Connection

Establishing a direct service connection requires you to show the VA three things, which include:

  1. Your current diagnosis

  2. An in-service illness, injury, or event

  3. Medical nexus that links the TMJ to your time in service

The Secondary Service Connection

This occurs if a primary service-connected condition has aggravated a secondary condition. For example, according to a study, veterans suffering from PTSD experience higher TMJ rates and poorer TMJ function than those without PTSD. In this situation, veterans will already have a service connection for their PTSD and may be able to file the secondary claim for TMJ cases that state it was aggravated by or caused by their PTSD.

The VA Rating of TMJ

It is important to note that the benefits you receive from the VA for your TMJ diagnosis depend on its severity. It is best to work with the VA to figure out what you may be entitled to. The rating criteria used are based on the motion of the joint and the ability you have to eat mechanically altered or regular foods. Mechanically altered foods include items that are semisolid, soft, mashed, ground, pureed, chopped, blended, or in liquid form.

If you need more information about TMJ or to have a medical evaluation to determine if you are dealing with this condition, it is best to work with a medical professional. This individual can provide you with the evaluation needed to determine what type of TMJ treatment is right for you. They can also help you with a VA benefits claim.


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