The buck-teeth in rabbits is one of their most distinctive characteristics. These teeth are vital to their diet and overall health, but it might seem strange that they grow slowly and steadily throughout a rabbit’s life.
Rabbits have elodent dentition teeth that are constantly growing. This growth helps the teeth stay long, sturdy, and healthy even when they’re regularly ground down by their fibrous diet. It’s natural for rabbits to gnaw and grind their teeth to keep them at a proper length.
Healthy teeth are the key to a healthy rabbit! To identify healthy teeth, prevent the issue of overgrowth, and learn about treating teeth that have grown past the healthy limit, read more below.
Identifying Healthy Teeth
It’s completely normal for rabbits to have teeth that grow continually. In fact, it would be strange if they weren’t growing! The teeth of other herbivores like horses and guinea pigs work in the same way.
Rabbits have several natural habits and instincts that will help them keep their teeth in check. They naturally grind their teeth together when they chew and are often driven to chew and gnaw on items that will help blunt their teeth.
Rabbits have 28 teeth, but the most visible ones are the front teeth (known as incisors). Incisors are the easiest ones to spot becoming overgrown, but molars can also grow out of control as well. Both of these types need to be monitored and kept in check.
As rabbit owners, you can do some of these routine checks at home! It’s worth noting that most rabbits don’t enjoy oral exams and may get nervous or fidgety if you poke around in their mouths.
To do an oral exam at home, you should make sure your rabbit feels as safe and comfortable as possible. If your rabbit doesn’t know you well or has a particularly nervous or aggressive personality, you may want to let a vet perform this check.
However, if you feel comfortable examining your rabbit’s teeth, place the rabbit on a flat, raised surface such as a table or bed. Wrap them securely in a towel (either one that is freshly cleaned or that has a familiar scent on it).
Look at your rabbit face to face, and gently brush your hand over their head and eyes, pulling up their upper lip in the process. You should be able to see the front teeth at this point.
Examine the teeth for any chips, cracks, breaks, overgrowth, or unusual stains. Look for any signs of inflammation, discoloring, or abscesses on the cheeks and gums as well. If you notice that your rabbit has any missing teeth, you may be surprised to learn that a rabbit’s teeth will grow back. See my article Do Rabbit Teeth Grow Back if They Fall Out for more on why they often break and how to prevent tooth issues before they happen.
The front pair of incisors should be growing in a straight pair, without any gaps between the teeth. Any signs of outward splaying, gaps, or teeth curling inward could become a serious problem for your rabbit’s oral health.
Ideally, the bottom front teeth should sit behind the top teeth in a bit of an overbite. If everything seems fairly clean and aligned, you’re free to remove the towel from the rabbit and return them to their pen.
More in-depth oral exams should be performed at one of your regularly scheduled veterinary appointments. Vets have the ability to sedate nervous rabbits and they can use the proper tools and equipment that are needed to examine the back teeth.
Vets will also be able to spot smaller problems that may not be apparent during a home examination. So if you notice something strange about your rabbit’s eating or gnawing behavior, but can’t spot anything during a quick home exam, consider taking a trip to the vet!
Preventing Overgrown Teeth
It’s best to get ahead of teeth problems before they get started. Most healthy rabbits will have habits that will help them grind their teeth down to a healthy level.
A fibrous diet is one of the best ways to keep their teeth in good shape! The constant grinding motion of eating hay will prevent teeth from growing too long. Make sure your rabbit has constant access to good hay so they can exercise good eating habits.
Rabbits enjoy gnawing on other things as well. Chew toys are a great way to keep your pet stimulated, as well as keep their teeth in check. Rabbits will chew on just about anything, but some toys are specifically designed to cater to their need to grind their teeth down.
Some of the best chew toys for rabbits include grass/ straw fiber balls, wooden chewing sticks, and tough chewing treats.
These will entertain your rabbit and help encourage their habits of gnawing and chewing. Because, after all, rabbits might end up chewing on something far more important if they get bored! Furniture, electric cords, or maybe even your hand could be at risk if their chewing needs aren’t met.
RABBIT CHEWING TOO MUCH? Did you know different rabbit breeds chew different amounts? To see which breeds chew the least, see my article 3 Best Pet Rabbit Breeds That Chew Less here.
Treating Overgrown Teeth
If overgrown or infected teeth become a problem, the best thing to do is take your rabbit to a vet. They have the skills and tools necessary to treat the problem.
However, if you feel comfortable and the vet advises you to do so, there are a few ways that you could treat overgrown rabbit teeth at home.
Most healthy rabbits don’t need help trimming their teeth, but if your rabbit has experienced pain while chewing or eating, they might take a break from grinding their teeth for a while.
In this case, owners may need to help out. Again, you should only perform these methods if your vet has recommended them for home use.
For example, you can use a small set of nail clippers or a small rotary drill to help keep your rabbit’s teeth at a proper length.
The video below gives a brief explanation of how rabbit teeth can grow out of proportion, as well as how to trim overgrown teeth.
Your rabbit probably won’t enjoy this process, and it can be a bit risky to operate machinery in your pet’s mouth. Once again, I must encourage you to leave most dental operations to the vet, but if you have no other option, you can try using the technique described above.
A rabbit’s teeth are vital to its quality of life, so be sure to keep a close eye on things and keep your furry friend healthy!