What are Cheek Tooth Abnormalities?

When your chinchilla’s cheek teeth grow normally, both upper and lower teeth will meet, leaving his incisors (front teeth) parted when at rest. When he is eating, the chewing motions should be forward, back and down. The edges of his teeth should be flat, allowing them to slide back and forth

Your pet’s tooth roots should end at a certain point within his jaw. If the roots grow too long, they can intrude into the eye socket or nasal duct, potentially causing him tremendous pain. This condition is considered untreatable, leading to a nasolacrimal blockage, which eventually leads to death.

Tooth crowns may elongate (grow too long), causing the remainder of his teeth to be unable to meet with each other so he can gnaw and chew his food. This condition is preventable and treatable.

Your chinchilla should have four cheek teeth in each quadrant of his mouth, for a total of 16 cheek teeth. He was born with 20 teeth (aside from the cheek teeth, he has four incisors). Think of the cheek teeth as molars.

His teeth are open-rooted, meaning they grow continually; about two to three inches annually throughout his lifetime. If he develops problems with his cheek teeth, this can lead to being unable to chew or even eat his food.

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Symptoms of Cheek Tooth Abnormalities in Chinchillas

One of several dental problems can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Irritated or injured tongue
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive pain when eating (develops with tooth spurs)
  • Weight loss
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Squealing or gagging during meals
  • Watery eyes
  • Lack of interest in gnawing objects or food
  • Leaves pellet crumbs behind
  • Frequent tooth grinding
  • Inability to drink from water sipper

Causes of Cheek Tooth Abnormalities in Chinchillas

Many of the causes of dental problems in your chinchilla can be detected. With proper care, they can also be avoided:

  • Lack of good gnawing material
  • Improper nutrition/diet
  • Injury to the mouth
  • Abnormally shaped teeth
  • Tumors in the mouth
  • Inadequate care

Diagnosis of Cheek Tooth Abnormalities in Chinchillas

When you realize your chinchilla isn’t feeling well, take him to your vet so he can be examined.

After giving your pet a full physical exam, your vet will examine his teeth. This may require your chinchilla to be anesthetized. Inspecting individual teeth, your vet will identify potential problems and explain them to you. Along with explaining what’s wrong with your pet’s teeth, your vet will explain the implications of every problem. 

Depending on the dental issue, some of them won’t make themselves evident until they are in an advanced stage. This makes it more difficult for your vet to treat the problem. In the case of root problems, this could indicate a poor prognosis.

Treatment of Cheek Tooth Abnormalities in Chinchillas

Your vet will recommend at least two treatments for your chinchilla’s teeth problems. She’ll have to burr the exposed cheek teeth crowns, if these have begun to grow too long. To file these teeth down, your vet uses a mechanical burr, which removes some of the overgrown crown.

The second treatment is one you can easily do at home. Provide a diet high in fiber to your pet. The grass and hay you feet should be abrasive, which helps your pet to wear down the surfaces of his teeth. By doing this every day, you’ll be helping your chinchilla to keep the surfaces of his cheek teeth down on his own.

If your chinchilla was born with abnormally shaped teeth, the best option may be to extract his front teeth (the incisors). Otherwise, they would need to be burred down every few weeks, making it necessary for you to take him to the vet frequently. Tooth extraction is a specialized procedure and you’ll have to monitor his healing process closely.

Extracting your chinchilla’s teeth won’t change the quality of his life; chinchillas who have had either their incisors or all of their cheek teeth removed do well afterward.

Recovery of Cheek Tooth Abnormalities in Chinchillas

Depending on the dental issue affecting your chinchilla, he may have either a very positive or very negative prognosis. Roots that eventually grow into the lower jaw, nasal cavities or into the eye sockets will likely lead to death. But other issues, such as crown elongation, can easily be treated in your vet’s office and at home, with the right kinds of grass and hay.

Once your vet has told you what your chinchilla’s diagnosis is and given treatment, you need to help your chinchilla keep his teeth in optimal condition at home.

Provide the right amounts of grass and timothy hay so he can gnaw and eat them. Doing so allows him to keep his teeth crowns ground down to the right level. As you give him more hay and grass, provide fewer treats and pellets as well. If you do give him pellets, limit them to about one-eighth of a bowl or less. He should be able to finish that amount of pellets in one day or less.