Unlike humans whose teeth stop growing at a certain age, guinea pig teeth grow continuously throughout their life. Without the correct care and proper diet, elongated roots and overgrown teeth can become major health concerns for your pet guinea pig.
How Many Teeth Do Guinea Pigs Have?
Cavies have a total of 20 teeth, which include:
- 4 incisors (2 upper and 2 lower)
- 4 premolars (2 upper and 2 lower)
- 12 molars (6 upper and 6 lower)
The incisors, located in the front, act like a knife and cut the food. The molars and premolars are used to chew and grind, making the meal easier to swallow and digest.
Did you know? Omnivores and carnivores have canine teeth. Guinea pigs, on the other hand, don’t because they are strict herbivores!
How Long Do Guinea Pig Teeth Grow?
This is a tough one to answer because a guinea pig’s teeth are open-rooted, which means they continuously grow. On average, a guinea pig’s teeth can grow up to 7.5 cm (approximately 2.9 inches) a year.
Without the correct food to chew on and grind their teeth down, cavies’ incisors carry on growing. Ideally, however, a healthy piggy’s teeth should be about 1.5 cm (0.5 inches) long.
Did you know? Guinea pigs, unlike other rodents, have a protective layer of enamel on their front upper incisors.
Do Guinea Pigs Have Baby Teeth?
No, guinea pigs don’t have baby teeth. You see, although human babies have milk teeth, baby cavies don’t. They’re also not toothless for the few first months of their lives.
All piggies, from teeny tiny to full-grown, have teeth. And they never ever stop growing!
Also unlike humans, if an adult piggy loses a tooth, a new one will grow back. No false teeth, bridges or crowns are needed for a cavy!
How Do They Keep Their Teeth Healthy In The Wild?
In the wild, guinea pigs keep their teeth healthy by chewing on different grasses, hay and twigs throughout the day. Unlike pet guinea pigs, they have plenty of space to forage and aren’t relying on a human to provide these vital foods.
Guinea Pig Dental Disease – What Problems Can They Encounter As Pets?
Unfortunately, without the correct care, dental disease is common for a guinea pig. The most common teeth issues include:
- plaque build-up
- fractures in their teeth
- abscesses, ulcers, mouth sores and infections
- tooth loss
While a few of these issues may not seem too serious, like plaque build-up, if left unchecked and untreated, minor tooth problems can quickly turn serious and become life-threatening.
In this section, we are taking a look at malocclusion, a tooth problem that needs your urgent attention.
When a guinea pig’s teeth aren’t aligned correctly, they experience irregular wear. This can quickly lead to overgrown teeth or malocclusion.
Causes of malocclusion
Malocclusion is one of the more serious dental issues in guinea pigs and is usually a result of:
- an inadequate diet, with insufficient vitamin C and a lack of abrasive foods
- overgrown teeth
- mouth sores, abscesses or teeth infections
- tooth fractures
Signs of malocclusion
Malocclusion affects your guinea pig’s upper and lower incisors, its upper and lower premolars and its upper and lower molars.
Overgrown teeth and irregular wear are the most common signs, and because of their location, it’s much easier to spot in your pet’s front teeth. Dental problems in the back teeth, on the other hand, are almost impossible to diagnose without the help of a vet. Other signs that your guinea pig is experiencing dental issues include:
- excess saliva and drooling (‘the slobbers’)
- problems chewing and swallowing food
- twitching or wiggling ears when chewing
- weight loss
- problems grooming
- changes in behaviour or signs of being in pain (hiding away, inability or reluctance to move)
Diagnosis and treatment of malocclusion
Malocclusion, if left untreated, can lead to all sorts of problems including abscesses, elongated roots, weight loss, diarrhoea, and malnutrition. In advanced cases, it can even be fatal.
If you suspect your guinea pig has malocclusion, it is vitally important that you get the issue diagnosed and treated by a vet immediately!
As already mentioned, because your guinea pig’s teeth are continuously growing, it’s easier to spot malocclusion in the incisors. However, if its molars and premolars are maloccluded, you will need a trained specialist to help diagnose, and treat, the problem.
Your vet will sedate your pet and use buccal pad separators to do a thorough check of the mouth and teeth.
If diagnosed in time, a vet can usually treat malocclusion successfully. Treatment may include trimming or grinding down a guinea pig’s teeth, removing tooth spikes, and even extracting a few teeth.
Unfortunately, in advanced cases of malocclusion, often the most humane treatment is euthanasia, which is why the correct treatment is so important.
When it comes to malocclusion and your pet guinea pig, prevention is key.
Always make sure your piggy has:
- the correct diet with plenty of abrasive foods to encourage normal wear of its teeth
- a high fibre diet with different kinds of grasses and hays
- enough vitamin C in their diet
- toys and other chewy objects like non-toxic sticks to help keep its teeth at the proper length
- a weekly health check to spot early signs of malocclusion
We found this video clip about malocclusion and guinea pigs particularly helpful. We think you will too!
Guinea Pig Teeth – How To Keep Them Healthy
To keep your piggy’s pearly whites in perfect condition, you must do a weekly health check. This will help you identify common guinea pig health issues, including dental problems.
How to check your cavy’s teeth
It may take you and your pet some time to get used to regular teeth examinations. The sooner you start doing basic piggy dental hygiene routine checkups, the easier they will become.
If you’re not sure how to check your guinea pig’s teeth, take a look at our easy-to-follow guide below.
1. Before you do anything, wash your hands. Then wrap your piggy in a blanket or towel and place it on its back, securely on your lap.
2. Checking the incisors is the easy part because they are located in the front. A healthy guinea pig should have four white incisors.
3. Use your index finger and thumb to hold its jaw, and check that the lower set is slightly longer and fits comfortably under the top teeth
4. Next, use the tip of your little finger to feel inside your pet’s mouth. Gently move it along the gum line, past the little gap (diastema) in its teeth, all the way to the premolars and molars. Feel for any potential problems, including spikes, fractures or missing teeth.
5. Make sure when you are doing this to check for any sores, abscesses or scabs. While you have your cavy in this position, it’s also a good idea to check that there is no excess saliva around its mouth, on its chin or chest.
6. If you see or feel anything abnormal, like overgrown teeth, irregular wear, or broken or missing teeth, it is vitally important that you get your guinea pig to the vet immediately. Even minor dental issues for guinea pigs can quickly become life-threatening if not treated by a professional.
To Finish Off
Yes, dental problems are common in cavies, but preventing them is easier than you think. Always make sure your pet guinea pigs are being fed a nutritious diet with loads of high fibre pellets, grass and especially hays. Vegetables that are packed with vitamin C are as important and should be given to your piggies at least once a day.
If you want to get your piggy’s diet spot-on, this article is a must-read!
Weekly dental checks are crucial. If you spot any abnormalities, you must get your guinea pig to the vet as a matter of urgency.
Now it’s your turn! How often do you check your pet’s teeth? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve you can share with our readers that help keep your guinea pig’s teeth healthy?