The small, industrious hedgehog is unique in many ways. They have a range of features, such as their quills, that set these mammals aside from us humans. But what about teeth? Do they share these calcified structures? Do they use them when eating? Let’s find out!
So, do hedgehogs have teeth? Hedgehogs do have teeth – between 34-44 in total. A hedgehog will develop their first set of milk teeth around 2-3 weeks of age. By weeks 7-9, these teeth will fall out and be replaced with their permanent set. Incisors, premolars, molars, and canines are the types of teeth hedgehogs have and use for eating.
In fact, hedgehogs actually share a very similar set of teeth to us humans. We both possess these same types of teeth.
The only real difference is that we humans have fewer teeth (typically around 32 in total).
And we use them in very similar ways too.
Predominantly for eating and grinding out food down into digestible matter.
Although, hedgehogs use their teeth to grab and latch onto their food too.
You don’t see too many of us humans do that!
In all fairness, hedgehogs need to strike when scurrying about foraging for insects. They’re not as gifted with their arms and claws.
We all need to eat.
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at the teeth of these spiny mammals and if they need to be looked after (and brushed) when keeping them as pets!
So be sure to read on; it’s genuinely fascinating.
How Many Teeth Do Hedgehogs Have?
Hedgehogs typically possess between 34-44 teeth in total. Although, baby hedgehogs will not possess any at-birth and will not develop them until they are around 18 days old. Equally, dental diseases or even purposeful extraction on the part of a veterinarian may result in hedgehogs having fewer teeth.
And hedgehogs possess four different types of teeth, these are:
- Incisors – which are the small, sharp frontal teeth. Hedgehogs use these to capture and elevate their prey.
- Canines – which sit next to the incisor teeth and help tear food.
- Premolars – which are flat and wide, used for grinding food for digestion.
- Molars – again, are flat and wide and used for grinding food for digestion.
And it’s the same in humans.
As fellow mammals, our teeth are designed for us to break down and extract nutrition from food.
And at the same time, we also both go through similar distinct phases.
So for hedgehogs, this means milk teeth that develop while young.
Or, as we know them, ‘baby teeth.’
These will eventually fall out around the 7-9th week mark as hedgehogs develop their full dentition.
But where do they go?
Well, most of the time, they are swallowed by the hedgehog!
This is why most owners of hedgehogs never realize the change or transition.
Do Hedgehogs Lose Their Teeth?
It is typical and expected for young hedgehogs to lose their teeth in preparation for their adult teeth to come in. Adult hedgehogs can also lose their teeth, but this is generally due to dental issues and happens infrequently.
We’ve already touched upon baby and young hedgehogs.
But we are yet to discuss dentistry in the adult hedgehog.
And the truth is, hedgehogs are not immune to the need for dental care and hygiene.
In fact, it’s very important as we will soon see.
In the wild, dental care is naturally taken care of.
The hard, fibrous exoskeleton of insects and other foods helps a hedgehog to naturally clean them.
But when being kept as pets in captivity, well, chances are they are not consuming the same amount, nor variety, of insects to effectively do so.
Or, their food is too soft and not crunchy enough for this essential cleaning.
And the result of this can be the build-up of plaque and tartar.
Which, if not controlled, will lead to dental issues.
And dental issues almost always lead to the loss of teeth – either directly or indirectly.
Are You Supposed To Brush A Hedgehogs Teeth?
If you own a pet hedgehog, it is generally advised that you brush their teeth regularly. You can either do this yourself at home, or you can even get this done professionally by a veterinarian.
And here is why.
Hedgehogs are prone to oral conditions.
Especially if you keep them as a pet in captivity.
In fact, many pet hedgehogs where dental care and hygiene is neglected suffer from a condition known as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
This can progress to tooth and gum disease if not caught and treated promptly.
And you’re going to want to take note.
Plaque and tartar naturally build on the teeth of a hedgehog. Its made up of saliva, food particles, and bacteria.
So as you can imagine, it’s pretty inevitable unless addressed.
And you need to be careful.
The gumline is a direct pathway into your hedgehog’s blood supply.
So, bacteria in the mouth can be transported all around your hedgehog.
Systematic infection is therefore possible.
Unless, of course, the plaque and tartar are brushed away.
Not with toothpaste, as you might think, mind.
To brush a hedgehog’s teeth, you are going to need to follow some very important steps and be very careful and mindful.
Not only to keep your hedgehog safe but yourself too.
Let us now look at how.
How To Brush A Hedgehogs Teeth
Before you begin brushing, you should conduct a dental examination.
In fact, these should be done pretty regularly.
If you take your hedgehog to a vet for check-ups, chances are they will do these at the same time.
But that may be too long to wait.
Instead, checking inside your hedgehog’s mouth frequently will help you spot and identify plaque and tartar before it results in infection.
To do so, it is advised to use a disposable wooden stick, such as a coffee stirrer.
This will help prevent you from getting bitten by your hedgehog.
Place the wooden stick near your hedgehog’s mouth, close enough for them to gently bite it. From there, you can prize open their mouth slowly and gently and have a look inside.
Just be sure to throw these away after each use – they’ll contain quite a bit of bacteria.
Be sure to keep these far away from any coffee!
At this stage, you should have a pretty good idea of the condition of your hedgehog’s teeth.
If you see a lot of thick, dense black plaque and tartar – it may be best to call a vet for professional cleaning.
However, if only a small amount is visible, you can proceed to brush.
Just be sure not to use toothpaste!
Instead, take a wet Q-tip and gently rub all their teeth.
Or you can use a micro-toothbrush like this one from Amazon.
Try to brush across all of the four teeth referenced above in this article, with particular focus on the back molars and on the teeth you can see.
Be very careful while you brush – try not to stress your hedgehog nor be too firm.
Noticing a small amount of blood is somewhat expected; however, a large amount of blood or visible tooth rot will likely require the support of a veterinarian.
Other Strategies To Keep A Hedeghogs Teeth Healthy
Aside from routine brushing, there are generally three other strategies that you can try to keep your hedgehog’s teeth clean and healthy.
- Dental Toys and/or Chews – you’ll often see these marketed for dogs and other pets. However, they can serve a purpose for hedgehogs too. Just be sure that they are not too large to fit in a hedgehog’s mouth or have too sharp edges that could cause injury or pain.
- Crunchy Food – Hedgehogs need a certain amount of fibrous material in their diet to clean their teeth and keep their mouths healthy. Crunchy cat food, or even dog food, can work here. The only caveat here is if your hedgehog has gum disease or existing dental issues. In that case, your vet may actually recommend that you feed soft food instead.
- Avoid Metal Drip Water Bottles – these have been known to crack hedgehog’s teeth when they use them. It is therefore recommended to seek out other drinking alternatives, such as a shallow water bowl that they can freely access.
Hedgehogs do possess teeth – quite a lot, in fact.
At least when they are adults.
Before then, a baby hedgehog needs to develop their full set of teeth.
And it all begins with the milk/baby teeth at the 18 days mark.
From there, they fall out, and the adult teeth that they possess for the rest of their lives come in.
That is unless they fall out.
Which can and does happen.
But especially so if dental care and hygiene are not prioritized or considered.
For most new or prospective owners, this may come as a surprise.
But it is an important aspect of ownership.
Whether you decide to undertake the examinations and brushings or get a veterinarian to do it on your behalf, it’s essential nevertheless.
Do Hedgehogs Have Sharp Teeth?
Hedgehogs possess both sharp and flat teeth. The front teeth are sharper than the back teeth, as they are used to grab and attach to food. Thankfully, a hedgehog nip is unlikely to penetrate or puncture human skin, although it is possible depending on where they are able to latch and the teeth that do so.