Hamsters make ideal family pets as they are easy to care for, have relatively few health problems and are undeniably cute! However, it is vital you know how to properly care for your hamster’s teeth, so they don’t develop dental problems.
Hamsters can get a variety of oral health issues, including excess plaque and tartar buildup, periodontal disease, gingivitis and tooth abscesses. As hamsters’ teeth continuously grow, so is important that they are given chew toys to gnaw on and have a diet that is balanced in minerals and vitamins.
This article explores how to check your hamster’s teeth regularly for overgrown teeth and incisors, broken teeth, and cheek pouch issues and when to take your hamster to the vet.
How do you health check a hamster’s mouth?
Hamsters are part of the rodent family, and it is perfectly normal for these small animals to be constantly chewing and gnawing because their front teeth continuously grow. These types of teeth are known as hyposondontal.
How many teeth do hamsters have?
A hamster is born with sixteen teeth. They have two upper incisor teeth and two lower incisor teeth, which have open roots and grow all the time, and twelve molar teeth, which have closed roots.
But don’t expect your hammie to have pearly whites! Hamsters have yellow teeth, which signifies good oral health, whereas, for us, it would mean a trip to the dentist!
Hamster teeth are very different from human teeth and the teeth of dogs and cats. The yellow/orange enamel makes the tooth extra hard for gnawing purposes.
Hamster owners must check their pet’s teeth at least once a week for any dental problems as their teeth grow continuously.
To check your hamster’s mouth, hold it gently with one hand to keep them secure. Your other hand gently pulls back the skin around your hamster’s neck to expose its teeth, making them look like they are smiling at you!
Their front teeth, the top and lower incisors, should be even and meet each other and have no blood or pus.
If the hamster’s teeth are long, you will notice them curve and stick out between their lips.
A hamster with overgrown incisors will not be able to eat correctly, and you may notice some weight loss in your pet.
Look for swollen and red gums around an infected tooth and possibly whitish spots.
You should also check for broken teeth, as this can cause lacerations in the roof of the mouth and check your hamster’s head for any abscesses and foul-smelling breath.
Lastly, hamster cheek pouches may be the cutest thing, but hamsters actually use them to store and transport food. However, watch out for unusual face swellings, as this could mean your pet has impacted cheek pouches.
What are the most common oral problems hamsters get?
Your hamster can encounter several dental problems, which may require a trip to your veterinary surgery.
Here we look at some of the main issues common with hamster teeth.
The most common problem you will find in your hamster’s mouth is overgrown teeth, which can result in several other health issues.
The front teeth, the incisors, are the easiest to identify as you will see them outside your hamster’s lips. They can even grow into the gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth, which the lower incisors can pierce, and a hole develops between the mouth and nasal cavity. If this does happen, you will notice your hamster sneezing and having nasal discharge.
What’s more, overgrown hamster teeth become extremely dirty, and you will notice a foul smell.
In the back of their mouth, your hamster’s molars, also known as cheek teeth, are less likely to become overgrown.
However, pet hamsters with cheek teeth issues will have difficulty eating and have swollen lower jaws.
If your hamster has long teeth, you must have them trimmed. This procedure is no easy task, and it is best to take your pet hamster to the vet to clip the overgrown incisors, who will also prescribe antibiotics or painkillers for the infected teeth.
Overgrown molars are more difficult to trim, and your pet might need sedation or anaesthesia.
Hamsters with infected teeth or cheek pouches impacted with large pieces of food can develop an abscess, a painful oral infection brought on by the build-up of bacteria in the mouth.
Your pet will show obvious pain and discomfort, and you may notice unusual facial swellings. You must take them to your veterinarian for urgent dental treatment. Failure to act early can lead to the hamster developing severe complications or illness and even death.
Your vet will drain the abscess and, in some cases, may have to surgically extract any infected teeth, placing your hamster on oral antibiotics afterwards.
A hamster with overgrown incisors can end up with broken teeth as they tend to knock against one another.
Hamsters often break their teeth by biting on their cage bars or running wheel or if they have weak teeth, usually caused by nutritional deficiencies.
A broken tooth is painful and makes it difficult for your hamster to eat, so a trip to the vet is necessary.
What behaviors indicate they have an oral problem?
You can spot tooth problems in your hamster by observing some of its behaviors.
Loss of Appetite
A hamster with dental problems will find eating difficult, so keep an eye on your pet’s food bowl.
However, you may not notice that your pet is not eating as hamsters often hide food in their cages, so look out for this when you clean their cage.
If your pet hamster is not eating, it will start losing weight, which is sometimes hard to spot with its fur coat.
It is essential to weigh your pet regularly so you know its weight when it is healthy, making identifying weight loss much more manageable.
Place your hammie in a cup or a glass and weigh them on the kitchen scales.
If your pet hamster has infected teeth, you can guarantee they will have bad breath, which will smell rancid.
You will most likely notice this foul odor when you pick your hamster up. The pus in the mouth causes the smell.
A hamster with chattering teeth will often bite the cage bars and have a bad temper, all signs which indicate dental issues.
If you notice your hamster drooling, it is most likely because it cannot close its mouth properly due to its long teeth. Drooling can sometimes be hard to spot, though as they often wipe the saliva with their front paws.
When it comes to keeping hamster teeth healthy, prevention is better than cure. Hamster teeth grow their entire lives, so give your pet things to chew on, like wood-based chew toys, which you can find at your local pet store or untreated wood to keep their teeth trimmed. For more advice on the best chew toys for hamsters, please take a look at our review guide.
And don’t forget to feed the correct diet for your hamster, supplemented with small amounts of fresh produce, and always visit your veterinarian as they have experience with these small animals.