Exotic Cheek Teeth

By February 3, 2019 Family Pet Veterinary Blog

As noted in the 3D imaging of exotics post, the incidence of dental issues in small exotic mammals (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rodents, hamsters, and ferrets) has been estimated near 90% in many studies. Sadly most exotic patients have hidden dental disease, which is difficult if not impossible to accurately assess during awake oral exams.

Anesthetized oral exams provide more information but imaging is necessary for the same reasons it is essential in dogs and cats. Due to small patient size, intraoral x-rays are less successful. Extraoral x-rays often have overlap of anatomic structures again making diagnosis challenging. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why 3D imaging needed in exotic patients. Read more about our high definition volumetric imaging capability with 0.09mm detail here.

The most common dental diseases in ferrets are periodontal disease and tooth fracture. One study showed 74% of ferrets fracture their canine teeth.

As for the almost 90% of rabbits and rodents (and chinchillas, guinea pigs), the most common dental disease is related to tooth alignment and resulting over growth of cheek teeth. These patients have continuously growing teeth that require free choice timothy hay and limited pellets so the natural act of chewing can keep the teeth aligned. The majority of these pets get cheek teeth overgrowth. As it progresses, hooks and sharp points develop on the opposing teeth. As the elongation continues, the roots project near the nose, eyes, and mandibles and can be the reason for eye and nasal issues. The incisors often elongate secondarily to cheek teeth elongation. Treatment to return the cheek teeth to appropriate height is done with fine grinding burs often to the level of the gums so that the gums will recede back to normal levels. The key is not to take too much away too fast as the internal aspect of the tooth can be exposed. Incisors should not be cut with nippers (single cut) as tooth fracture is a common occurrence.

Unfortunately, after grinding/smoothing/’floating’ regrowth will occur. Most cheek teeth need retreatment every 3-6 months. The first thing owners worry about with this condition is anesthesia. While anesthesia is not without risk, there are multiple cases of rabbits (and others) having 50+ anesthetic episodes for this condition over their lifetime and dying of unrelated causes.

As tooth elongation continues or trauma to teeth occurs, infection or disease often happens at the root tip. Extraction or surgical root tip resection is needed:

Contact us to learn more about exotic dentistry issues.