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Dental Injuries in Bike Crashes

Studies estimate that more than 5 million teeth are avulsed each year, and as many as 40% of them are due to sports-related injuries. Sports such as hockey, football, and baseball are notorious sports for losing teeth, but biking is another top activity that can lead to dental injuries. 

In fact, cycling causes enough damage to teeth and jaws each year that the American Dental Association recommends cyclists wear a properly-fitted mouthguard to reduce the likelihood of serious damage.

Dental injuries can impact health, confidence and your bank account.

Even minor crashes can cause dental injuries simply because the impact of hitting the ground can be enough to chip, crack or knock a tooth out. As a result, you may have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in health care. Researchers estimate that nearly $500 million is  spent on replacing these teeth each year.

Types of dental injuries

Researchers say it’s difficult to gather statistics on dental injuries, but tend to agree that they are more common in contact sports. That said, coming into contact with any hard surface (like concrete), especially when given the speed usually associated with a bicycle crash, can lead to a number of different types of injuries involving the teeth or jaw. 

These are some of the most common types of dental injuries:

Cracked teeth: A cracked tooth can be superficial, which dentists say doesn’t risk health complications all that much, but they can quickly turn into bigger problems. It’s best to seek out a professional opinion if you experience a crack, even if it seems minor.

Tooth intrusion: In some instances, a cyclist may experience a tooth intrusion, which happens when the tooth is shoved back into the jaw. While this can happen to people of all ages, it tends to be more common in children because the bone that holds the tooth sockets aren’t as developed as adults. This injury may significantly impact the jaw bone and the tooth root, so you’ll want to seek out medical attention.

Tooth avulsions: It’s possible to save a tooth after it’s been knocked out, but you must act fast and keep in mind a few tips to ensure the best outcome. 

First, try to prevent any further nerve damage by avoiding touching the root of the tooth. Only touch the chewing side (called the “crown”) of the tooth, not the root. If the tooth is dirty, wash it with water, milk, saliva or saline (again, avoid touching the root). 

If possible, put the tooth back in the socket. Dentists say that the tooth has a better chance of implantation if this is done 30 seconds to 5 minutes after it’s been avulsed. If the tooth cannot be re-implanted, dentists recommend storing it in the cheek. It’s then time to get to a dentist for follow-up as soon as possible.

Jaw dislocation: Jaw injuries are also possible in biking accidents. A classic symptom of jaw dislocation is being unable to move the jaw in any way. You should seek out health care if this is the case.

Should you wear a mouthguard?

A mouthguard could be a beneficial addition to your riding gear, and for more reasons than you probably think. 

A well-fitting mouthguard could help during a crash because it absorbs the impact, lessening the likelihood of a cracked tooth or traumatic dental injury – which is an obvious reason to consider one. But they may also actually improve your training. 

“A (2015) study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research analyzed 10 well-trained amateur cyclists, and found that wearing a mouthguard during a stationary trainer session improved both VO2 max (the rate at which riders process oxygen) and respiratory threshold (the point at which breathing becomes labored),” Bicycling reports. “The study’s authors believe improved jaw positioning may be behind the performance boost.”

Helmets may also create enough of a buffer between your head and the ground to prevent a dental injury in some instances. One study even suggests a helmet that incorporates “a lower face bar, similar to Formula One helmet design, (because it) has the potential to prevent dental and lower third injuries.”

Should you contact an attorney after a dental injury?

Yes. If you’re involved in an accident that leads to a dental injury, it’s a good idea to speak with a bicycle accident  attorney to make sure you’re being properly compensated.

The bottom line is that dental injuries can be serious, and even something that seems small can cause more damage if it becomes infected or heals wrong. It’s important to get the right care right away if you’re involved in a bike crash, especially if you lose a tooth or have trouble moving your jaw. 

The attorneys at Bay Area Bicycle Law have expertise in getting clients the compensation they need for injuries of all kinds, including dental injuries after a bike crash. Schedule a free consultation today to speak to an attorney if you or a loved one has been impacted in a bike accident.