Thousands of Veterans experience bruxism, an ailment characterized by repeated and stress-induced grinding of one’s teeth. In some cases, bruxism can lead to long-term or permanent dental damage, jaw pain, discomfort, and disability.
If you believe you developed bruxism or that your military service or a related incident aggravated your bruxism, you need to know the bruxism VA rating and likely compensation. Read on for more information.
Bruxism is a type of teeth-grinding disorder. You may reflexively or instinctively clench, grind, or gnash your teeth if you have bruxism. Bruxism is not the same as regular teeth grinding – it occurs consistently, repetitively, and painfully, often to the point of being noticeable by others.
While some Veterans experience bruxism while awake, most bruxism occurs during sleep. Bruxism is involuntary and may be a stress response to another condition or mental health disorder, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Generally, bruxism is related to a variety of mental or emotional conditions. Some of the most common causes of bruxism include anxiety, sleep disturbances, internalized anger, and frustration. PTSD is also a potential cause of bruxism, and it’s one of the most common types of mental health conditions that Veterans experience.
As an example, many Veterans who experience sleep disturbances, like nightmares or insomnia from their PTSD, may also experience sleep bruxism simultaneously. They may awaken with an aching jaw and tooth damage without immediately knowing the root cause.
The symptoms of bruxism include but are not limited to the following:
In the long-term, bruxism may result in permanent disabilities or damage like jaw damage, teeth damage, or TMJ, characterized by jaw clicking and popping or the inability to open one’s mouth completely.
In some cases, Veterans don’t realize that they are experiencing bruxism until they visit a dentist or other healthcare provider. Upon examination of their teeth, a healthcare provider may diagnose bruxism based on the type and level of damage present.
Bruxism must be treated with time using mouth guards and other dental tools. You can also treat it through therapy and through treating the mental health condition that causes this stress response.
The VA considers bruxism a potential disability that warrants disability benefits. However, this only applies if it rates bruxism as a secondary service-connected condition. Otherwise, it may be combined with a service-connected psychiatric condition.
Primary service-connected conditions or disabilities are those directly caused or aggravated by an incident or event experienced by a Veteran during their military service. Primary service-connected conditions are also sometimes called direct service-connected conditions. They are directly or immediately linked to an incident a Veteran encountered during their military duties.
For example, PTSD may be a primary service-connected disability. Suppose a Veteran witnesses or experiences a traumatic incident because of their military service, then develops PTSD symptoms afterward. The Veteran can apply for disability benefits based on these facts.
Secondary service-connected conditions or disabilities are caused or aggravated by primary service-connected disabilities already linked to a Veteran’s military service. For instance, if a Veteran develops bruxism because they have PTSD nightmares and involuntarily grinds their teeth. Asth as a result, they could qualify for disability benefits for bruxism on a secondary basis.
Because bruxism qualifies for disability benefits on a secondary connected basis, getting benefits for bruxism requires a two-step process.
This can extend the time the Veteran must go without benefits before receiving a positive decision from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
You can prove bruxism as a secondary service-connected condition in several ways. Like all service-connected conditions, you must prove the following:
To accomplish this, your lawyers may request that you gather evidence to substantiate your disability claim. Some of the best evidence you can provide includes medical records, especially from physicians or healthcare practitioners who directly treated your bruxism, including dentists or primary care physicians.
Lay statements are also valuable. Lay statements are journal entries, letters, or written statements from friends or family members who can validate your symptoms and back up your claim that your symptoms did not start until you return home from active duty.
These can be particularly helpful if you need to prove sleep bruxism as a secondary condition, as you may not be directly aware of how often you grind your teeth (but your spouse, who sleeps next to you, may be able to do so).
Don’t forget your service records. Your service records may be necessary to prove that you experienced a claimed nexus event or incident, such as the stressor incident that caused you first to develop PTSD symptoms.
If you aren’t sure what evidence to gather or need to gather extra evidence to ensure your claim goes through, contact experienced Veterans law attorneys immediately. The right lawyers can assist by breaking down new types of evidence for you to acquire and help you through the appeals process if the VA denies your initial claim for bruxism disability benefits.
The VA does not directly rate bruxism. However, bruxism’s symptoms and disabling conditions are rated under the Schedule of Ratings for Dental and Oral Conditions, typically under the diagnostic codes 9905 or 9913, depending on symptoms and severity.
For example, diagnostic code 9905 provides all the disability ratings for Temporomandibular Disorder. This condition impacts jaw functionality and discomfort. Ratings for this condition and bruxism range from 10% disability to 50% disability depending on how far a Veteran can open their mouth and whether they have any dietary restrictions.
Diagnostic code 9913 provides various disability ratings for teeth loss. So if a Veteran loses their teeth from bruxism, and the bruxism is a secondary service-connected disability, they may receive a disability rating of between 10% and 40%.
A 10% rating is if all the upper and lower teeth on one side are missing, if all the lower anterior teeth are missing, or if all the upper anterior teeth are missing. A 40% rating is if all teeth are missing.
If you have lost teeth because of your bruxism, you might automatically be eligible for disability compensation if your bruxism is connected to another disability.
If you acquire disability compensation for bruxism as a secondary condition, remember that your disability rating is not simply added to your existing disability rating. For instance, if you have a 50% disability rating for PTSD or sleep apnea, then receive another 20% disability rating for bruxism, your new disability rating is not 70%.
Instead, you’ll likely have a combined disability rating of 60%. That’s because secondary disability ratings are added as proportional percentages to a Veteran’s current primary disability rating.
This system can be difficult to understand even in the best circumstances. Contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys to understand the disability rating you may qualify for and your requisite benefits.
You can’t normally receive VA disability benefits for bruxism as a primary service connection. However, you can establish a secondary service connection between your bruxism and another disability, like PTSD. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you establish this secondary service connection and ensure that you get the benefits you need.
At Berry Law, our knowledgeable attorneys know exactly how to help you file an effective benefits claim, plus provide substantiating evidence to the VA so that your claim results in maximum benefits for you and your family.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.
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