What Are Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders?
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jawbone to the skull, acting as a sliding hinge to allow the mouth to open and close. TMJ disorders can affect one or both of the temporomandibular joints, causing pain in the joint(s) or in the muscles that control jaw movement. The most common signs and symptoms associated with TMJ disorders are:
- Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
- Aching pain in and around one or both ears
- Aching facial pain
- Pain or tenderness in the jaw
- Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close the mouth
- Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
In many cases, the pain associated with TMJ disorders is temporary and can be relieved by self-managed care or non-surgical treatment. Surgery is often a last resort, used only when less invasive methods of management have failed.
The exact cause of most people’s TMJ disorder is often difficult to determine because the pain could be due to a combination of different factors, including genetics, arthritis, or jaw injury. For veterans, the most common causes of TMJ disorders are injury or arthritis, especially considering the physical and dangerous nature of military work. Service members are often exposed to situations in which they put themselves at risk for bodily harm, or are doing repeated movements which can cause the development of arthritis. Due to these situations being common for many military members, it is not surprising that limited motion of the jaw and malunion of the lower jaw were the two most commonly claimed dental disabilities in the VA disability compensation system as of 2019. For veterans with TMJ disorders, every day actions like eating and talking can become difficult, so having access to compensation for their condition is incredibly important in order to improve their quality of life.
How The VA Rates TMJ Disorders
Under 38 CFR § 4.150, the VA rates TMJ disorders according to their severity and the impact they have on the veteran’s range of motion in the jaw.
Diagnostic Code 9905: Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- 0 to 10 millimeters (mm) of maximum unassisted vertical opening.
- With dietary restrictions to all mechanically altered foods 50
- Without dietary restrictions to mechanically altered foods 40
- 11 to 20 mm of maximum unassisted vertical opening.
- With dietary restrictions to all mechanically altered foods 40
- Without dietary restrictions to mechanically altered foods 30
- 21 to 29 mm of maximum unassisted vertical opening.
- With dietary restrictions to full liquid and pureed foods 40
- With dietary restrictions to soft and semi-solid foods 30
- Without dietary restrictions to mechanically altered foods 20
- 30 to 34 mm of maximum unassisted vertical opening.
- With dietary restrictions to full liquid and pureed foods 30
- With dietary restrictions to soft and semi-solid foods 20
- Without dietary restrictions to mechanically altered foods 10
- Lateral excursion range of motion: 0 to 4 mm 10
For VA compensation purposes, the normal maximum unassisted range of vertical jaw opening is from 35 to 50 mm, and mechanically altered foods are defined as altered by blending, chopping, grinding or mashing so that they are easy to chew and swallow. There are four levels of mechanically altered foods: full liquid, puree, soft, and semisolid foods. To warrant elevation of schedular disability rating based on mechanically altered foods, the use of texture-modified diets must be recorded or verified by a physician.
Help With Your TMJ Disorder VA Claim
If you are a veteran with a TMJ disorder who is looking for assistance with your claim, please contact our office today. Our experienced veterans disability lawyers are ready to help.