Small Mammal Dental Problems

Small Mammal Dental Problems

Guinea Pigs

A diet deficient in hay can contribute to dental disease. Guinea pig teeth grow continuously. The act of chewing helps maintain teeth at the proper height and shape. Dental spurs are sharp projections that can develop on the inside of the lower and the outside of the upper dental arcade. Spurs can cause injury to the cheeks or the tongue, which may lead to discomfort or difficulty eating.


Dental malocclusion. Chinchilla teeth grow continuously throughout the life of the chinchilla. Malocclusion occurs when the teeth, particularly the molars, wear unevenly, creating points that can lacerate the tongue. Signs of dental malocclusion include excessive drooling, weight loss, and decreased fecal output. Encouraging hay consumption may help prevent this problem, but there is frequently a genetic basis. Malocclusion can be remedied with teeth trimming; this requires general anesthesia.


Many people think of rabbits as rodents, but they are lagomorphs. Both rodents and lagomorphs have open-rooted teeth (continuously growing throughout life). Rabbits have incisors (front teeth) which are easily visualized and a good set of molars in the back of the mouth for grinding and chewing that are not readily visible. Unlike rodents, however, lagomorphs have two small, tube-shaped incisors (peg teeth) behind the large upper incisors. Since the teeth continuously grow, the upper teeth must meet the lower teeth in order to allow for proper wearing of the teeth, thus preventing overgrowth. All teeth must meet and wear at the same rate as they are growing, or problems will arise.

Malocclusion (imperfect positioning or meeting of the teeth when the jaws are closed), improper growth or wear patterns, and overgrowth of the incisors and/or molars can occur. Overgrown points or sharp spikes may cut and badly damage the tongue, cheeks or gums. In the case of overgrown lower molars, they may form a bridge over and entrap the tongue. Overgrown molars can change the way the incisors meet and therefore affect normal wearing. Misshapen incisors and malocclusion of the incisors will sometimes cause these front teeth to protrude out of the mouth, grow at an angle to each other, curl back into the mouth, curl sideways or take on other problematic positions. All this can lead to infections in the mouth, difficulty eating, drooling, pawing at the mouth, problems grooming and loss of weight. Teeth normally grow at a rate of approximately 1 cm each month and in the case of an unopposed incisor, growth can be as much as 1 mm per day.  Read more...

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