Guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas have open root teeth, that never stop growing. When the teeth are not in correct alignment they overgrow and malocclusion develops. Small mammals with overgrown teeth are usually off their food, salivate excessively, lose weight and become depressed or even bad tempered. Congenital disorders from inbreeding, jaw or tooth damage and infection can also cause the teeth to go out of alignment and because they do not meet each other so they do not get worn down, and they grow excessively long.
THE TRADITION TREATMENT WAS TOOTH CLIPPING, BUT THIS IS NO LONGER RECOMMENDED, AS THIS CAN BE PAINFUL FOR A CONSCIOUS SMALL MAMMAL AND CAN CAUSE THE TEETH TO FRACTURE, MAKING THE CONDITION WORSE.
Traditionally, the treatment was tooth clipping. However, this is no longer recommended as clipping a conscious small mammal may well be quite painful but more importantly the physical act of clipping may cause the teeth to fracture making the condition worse. Thankfully there are now better alternatives to clipping. Burring the teeth with a high speed dental burr under a sedative means that the teeth can be cut closer to the gum line without the danger of splitting the teeth. In practice this means fewer visits to the vets for you and your pet.
Tooth root infection (and osteomyelitis) is a common cause of dental problems which can occur at any age. Guinea pigs are often presented with facial swellings or abscesses in these cases. Surgical treatment is recommended along with a course of antibiotics. There can be little doubt that a radiographic study is probably the key to successful diagnosis, maximising treatment success, and provide an accurate prognosis. Survey skull radiographs can also be used to stage the degree of dental disease (based upon Harcourt-Brown, 1997).
The best route to successful diagnosis and treatment is an x-ray of the skull, and can also help to identify dental disease. If you think your pet may be suffering with overgrown or decayed teeth, please contact your local Village Vet practice for the best advice.