Guinea pig teeth have a special power: they never stop growing! And that’s why they can also become a troublesome health issue for our little friends. Especially older pigs seem prone to guinea pig teeth problems around their front teeth because they don’t wear them down as regularly as their younger piggy friends. So we’ve put together this ultimate guide to the right guinea pig floss-ophy (don’t worry, you don’t actually have to use floss with your pigs) that keeps your cavies cavities-free.
Find out the tooth about guinea pigs’ teeth and answers to your most urgent questions, including ‘How many teeth does a guinea pig have?’ and ‘How long should guinea pig teeth be?’!
Guinea Pig Teeth: What They Look Like
Just like our human teeth, guinea pig teeth should be pearly white when they’re in good condition. Some rodent relatives have yellow teeth by nature, but in our cute cavies, that would be a sign of guinea pig teeth problems.
Healthy piggy teeth aren’t overly curved, and of course there shouldn’t be any guinea pig overgrown teeth. It’s worth noting that a piggy’s front teeth are long by nature, and they should sit evenly in your piggies’ mouth.
If you spot any of your guinea pig’s teeth getting too long, or they’re showing pain or hesitation during snack time, it’s time to check for guinea pig teeth problems at the vet’s!
How many teeth do guinea pigs have and what are they called?
Guinea pigs have a total of 20 teeth - that’s 12 less than an adult person! Guinea pigs have
- 4 incisors
- 4 premolars
- 12 molars
You’ve probably spotted your pets’ incisors, the guinea pig’s long teeth at the front of their mouth. Your guinea pigs’ sharp and narrow incisors cut off pieces of food. That’s how they manage to eat even the crispiest carrots.
The food then moves to their premolars and molars, a guinea pig’s back teeth. The premolars sit behind the incisors and are sharper than the piggy’s molars. These guinea pig teeth grind chewy and tough food down, so the pig doesn’t end up swallowing huge chunks of treats. Very important for the little snack lovers!
Finally, the molars are a guinea pig’s back teeth and the very last stop for any food going into your piggy’s stomach. These teeth are in charge of grinding the food down heavily, so the guinea pig can swallow it comfortably. A guinea pig’s molars work the hardest out of all of their teeth, and they’re key to a healthy piggy mouth and digestive system.
How long should guinea pig teeth be?
Guinea pig teeth grow their entire lives - around a whooping 2.9 in (7.5 cm) per year. The tooth is, there is no one right length for guinea pig teeth. The incisors are usually around 0.6 in (1.5 cm) long in a healthy guinea pig, but they constantly grow and wear themselves down.
So how can you tell how long guinea pig teeth should be? If they’re working fine, don’t injure the pig’s mouth, and are even and white, your guinea pig’s teeth are probably okay.
If you’re worried that your guinea pig has long teeth because your pig isn’t eating well, is drooling, or seems in pain, it’s best to head to the vet for a thorough check.
How to Take Care of Guinea Pig Teeth
The key to great guinea pig teeth, and avoiding guinea pig teeth problems and guinea pig overgrown teeth, is the right diet. It’ll keep the chompers at the right length, so your piggies can eat to their hearts’ (and tummies’) content. They’re called walking stomachs for a reason!
Usually guinea pigs with teeth that are too long are recovering from other illnesses, are older, or haven’t had access to the right food. If you notice uneven, unusually long, or broken off teeth, your cavy-savvy vet can trim the teeth down.
Now let’s find out how to keep your piggies’ teeth nice and shiny and prevent a guinea pig’s overgrown teeth!
Tips to keep your guinea pig teeth healthy
Your piggies’ dental health is mostly about their diet. In the wild, guinea pigs keep their teeth trimmed by chewing on long grasses. When they chew the grass, their teeth grind down on one another which keeps them short. Guinea pig long teeth are strong, so the best thing to trim them naturally are the other guinea pig teeth.
In our homes, we can offer good-quality hay and grass to keep our piggies’ teeth healthy. Around 70 to 80% of your sweet floofers’ diet should be hay, so finding the right hay is oh so important! Timothy hay is the best you can choose for your furry friends, and you can mix it with oat and orchard hay for extra foraging fun. Your pets’ hay should be in a hay bag or rack, or a large pile in their cage.
They also need plenty of vitamin C in their food, so remember: a piece of bell pepper a day keeps the vet away. Veggies make up around 20% of your pigs’ diet, with just 5 to 10% left over for pellets and the odd treat. Just like hay, the quality of piggy pellets and treats varies a lot and only the highest quality gives your pigs the best chance for great dental health, and also wonderful wellbeing overall.
Top tip: wooden accessories can also encourage your pig to chew more and steer clear of guinea pig long teeth.
Some foods are best avoided to skip guinea pig teeth problems. Piggies generally shouldn’t eat nuts because they’re too fatty and cause digestive issues. But they’re also bad for guinea pig teeth and can leave your piggy with a broken tooth or two. The other foods you want to avoid - apart from a rare treat - are sweet foods. This includes lots of fruits, unhealthy treats, and even carrots. Sugar has the same effect on piggy teeth as it does on a human’s, so your pigs could end up with tooth decay if they eat it often. Stick to the good stuff, including hay and the right veggies, to prevent cavities in cavies.
Can you brush a guinea pig's teeth?
Imagine trying to clean not only a guinea pig’s long teeth at the front, but also the guinea pig’s back teeth with a toothbrush - oh no! Luckily, our floofy friends don’t need to brush their teeth at all. And unless there are guinea pig teeth problems, there’s also no need for dental treatment at the vet’s.
When it comes to guinea pig teeth problems, it’s all about prevention through a great diet.
Common Guinea Pig Teeth Problems
Unfortunately, despite a piggy parent’s best efforts, there’s no way around guinea pigs with teeth that are too long sometimes. If you notice your pig drooling, having sores in their mouth, or seeming in pain when eating, there’s a pretty good chance they’ve got guinea pig teeth problems.
The most common guinea pig teeth problems are
- abscesses and ulcers
- fractures and tooth loss
- infections and mouth sores
- malocclusion (teeth that don’t align)
Most of these are caused by guinea pig overgrown teeth, so keeping a close eye on your piggies’ chompers can help you spot issues early on. As they get older, fractures or even tooth loss become a common problem, too. If you spot any of these issues, get your piggy booked in with your trusted cavy-savvy vet sooner rather than later. A toothache is painful and can even affect the rest of your sweet pigs’ health.
Guinea pig overgrown teeth and malocclusion
When a guinea pig’s teeth get too long and they don’t align nicely anymore, it can stop them from eating. And you know what happens when a piggy doesn’t eat hay regularly? Their teeth grow even longer. It’s a vicious cycle of guinea pig teeth problems, and the only way out of it is the right veterinary care.
If the guinea pig overgrown teeth are in the earlier stages, it’s mainly uncomfortable for your floofers. As they progress, they can cause injuries that lead to infections in the mouth. And that’s usually when it causes a potential long-term problem: malocclusion.
Malocclusion is the misalignment of a piggy’s teeth or jaw. Our piggies’ teeth fit nicely over each other when their mouths are closed, but as soon as a tooth, or even the whole jaw, changes its position, it causes problems with chewing and the vicious cycle begins.
Malocclusion is usually the result of
- The wrong diet that’s missing hay and/or plenty of vitamin C
- Guinea pig overgrown teeth
- Teeth infections, abscesses, and sores
- Tooth fractures
But even if you’ve given your guinea pig everything they need to keep their chompers in check, it can be a simple case of genetic dental problems or old age. That’s why it’s so important not to hesitate to act when you suspect any piggy tooth problems: it could happen to any pig!
If in doubt, chat to your vet. The earlier you catch guinea pig teeth problems, the better you can solve them.
Guinea pig broken teeth and fractures
Broken or fractured teeth are just as uncomfortable for our floofs as they are for us hoomans. A tooth fracture, either of the guinea pig’s back teeth or the guinea pig’s long teeth at the front, often happens when they hit their teeth against something hard. If your floofs take a fall or have a run in with a wall, it’s crucial to check their chompers for any guinea pig teeth problems.
Concerned piggy parents can also fact-check their pigs’ diet for vitamin C and plenty of high-quality hay. A poor diet affects piggy teeth and can make them more vulnerable to a broken or fractured tooth. On the plus side, as we know, guinea pig teeth grow all their lives, so in many cases, a dented dental grows back.
This fact, unfortunately, doesn’t save the cavy carer from a trip to the vet. Splintered guinea pig teeth can cut the piggy’s skin or grow back crookedly, so your trusted cavy-savvy vet can give the tooth a good trim to straighten it up. They’ll also help with any medication, especially painkillers, so your piggy can go back to being comfortable in their own skin (and mouth!).
In most cases, a broken-toothed pig should see their vet for regular check-ups because it can change the way the tooth grows. Sometimes, this means the guinea pigs with teeth that are too long have to have regular trims, and other times, it’s about preventing problems by keeping up with the checks. A cavy-savvy vet will let the piggy parents know when to bring their floofy friends back in.
How to Check your Guinea Pig’s Teeth
It’s always a great idea to perform a weekly health check on your piggies. Simply add the teeth check to your to-do list and get another pair of hands on board for piggy handling.
Here is our simple step-by-step guide for your guinea pig teeth check:
- Wash your hands
- Ask someone to hold your guinea pig securely in their lap
- Sit in front of your pet
- Use your forefinger and thumb to gently open your pig’s mouth
- Check the incisors are even, white, and the lower set fits under the upper set
- Check for visible sores or injuries in your pet’s mouth
- Give your pig their favorite treat - they deserve it
- Well done, you’re finished!
It’s easy to check a guinea pig’s long teeth at the front, the incisors, with this technique. The guinea pig’s back teeth, on the other hand, are much more difficult to see - unless you’re a vet with the right equipment. Your trusted vet can check the premolars and molars at the annual wellbeing check to make sure your cavies’ chompers are in tip top condition.
Conclusion: Prevention is key for Guinea Pig Teeth Problems
The best hack to stop guinea pig teeth problems is the right diet. Add piles of hay to your pigs’ home, plus a few wooden accessories, and the little pets can keep their teeth nice and clean. Regular guinea pigs teeth checks are also a great idea. Your vet can help you sort out any problems.