Mouthguard and helmet when cycling

I am a cyclist. Some of my teammates wear mouthguards while others say that mouthguards are not needed during mountain bike races because helmets offer good protection to the head as well as the face. Where do you stand on this issue?

Question:

Attention has been given to protecting the head with a helmet. Many studies now show that facial injuries due to cycling accidents are almost as common as head injuries!

The scientifically controlled studies that I have read all suggest that conventional bicycle helmets do not adequately protect the lower face. One study measured thousands of serious facial injuries caused by bicycle accidents (Thompson et al. 1996). Facial injury was defined as any laceration (cut) or fracture (broken bone) to the jaw, eyes, forehead, nose, ears or mouth. The face was divided into upper, middle and lower sections. The statistics show that helmets protect the upper and middle face but "do not appear to offer any protection to the lower face". This region includes the lips, intraoral region (teeth) and lower jaw.

Unless your helmet includes a chin protection device (not to be confused with a chin strap), I would strongly urge everyone to use a mouthguard during bicycling, skateboarding, and in-line skating. All participants in contact sports should also wear them. They are inexpensive, comfortable and come in a variety of exciting colors and patterns!

References:

Thompson et al., "Effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets in preventing serious facial injury" J. Am. Med. Assoc. (1996) 276(24):1974-1975.

Lindquist et al., "Maxillofacial fractures sustained in bicycle accidents" In. J. Oral Maxillofac. Surg. (1986) 15:12-18.

Thompson et al., "A case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets in preventing facial injury" Am. J. Public Health (1990) 80:1471-1474.

Acton et al., "Bicycle riding and oral/maxillofacial trauma in young children" Med. J. Aust. (1996) 165:249-251.

Myall et al., "Condylar injuries in children: What is different about them?" Controversies in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Philadelphia, PA, W.B. Saunders Co., (1994) pp. 191-200.

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