Although they are rarely seen, guinea pigs really do have teeth. Since they rarely bite, most owners have never had the chance to even see them. However, they are there, and like any other pet they need proper dental care and hygiene to keep them healthy.
But, how many teeth does a guinea pig have? Guinea pigs have twenty teeth in total. There are six molars on the top and six molars on the bottom. There are two premolars on the bottom and two premolars on top. Finally, there are two lower incisors and two top incisors.
Each classification of tooth has its own purpose, or job, within the mouth. All the chewing and grinding is done by the molars and the premolars. The incisors at the front of the mouth are extremely sharp, and they do all the cutting work.
Since they are herbivores, guinea pigs do not have the canine teeth found in many other mammals. Instead, their molars are separated from their incisors by a space known as a diastema. Without the use of specialized tools to look inside of the mouth, the molars are hidden from view as their cheek pads protrude into the diastema.
Like humans, there is a protective layer of white enamel covering the teeth. Most members of the rodent family have distinctly yellow teeth, so guinea pigs are unusual in that regard.
Once you look closely however, you will see that the white enamel is only on the front surface of the incisors. The back side is left unprotected so that teeth can be sharpened like knives.
How Long Should My Guinea Pigs Teeth Be?
For a healthy guinea pig, the incisors grow between 5 and 7.5cm annually. If the alignment of the teeth is correct, this means their length should be roughly 1.5cm.
Most mammals have teeth that are closed-rooted, meaning they grow to a certain length and stay that way.
In guinea pigs, the teeth are open-rooted, meaning that they grow constantly.
They also need to constantly grind and chewing food. But, they can get misaligned or overgrown. So, they need to be carefully managed and cared for. This will help prevent any dental issues along with pain when eating.
A proper diet with plenty of fibrous roughage for chewing is therefore essential. This will help your guinea pig to naturally file away and keep their teeth in optimal condition.
Moreover, wooden chew toys (like these from Amazon) are commonly used by guinea pig owners. This enables their cavy to play while equally satisfying the requirement of natural tooth grinding.
How Do You Check A Guinea Pigs Teeth?
To check the teeth on your guinea pig, you are going to need to perform a basic home dental check inside their mouth and be thankful that most do not bite!
Wash your hands thoroughly and wrap your guinea pig in a towel.
In an area with bright lighting, put your pet on its back in your lap. Using your index finger and thumb to hold the jaw, look at the incisors first.
The upper ones should be slightly longer than the lower and fit perfectly over the bottom incisors. They should be white in color.
Feel along the line of the gums by placing the tip of your finger inside the mouth.
Continue along until you feel the diastema gap, followed by the premolars and the molars. These should be approximately ¾ of an inch inside the mouth.
It is rare that the upper molars cause any dental problems in guinea pigs, so you should concentrate your exam on the lower molars. Between the tops of the teeth there should be a gap between 3/8 and ½ an inch.
Also check to ensure that they do not bend over the tongue. Next, gently run your fingertip over all the edges of each tooth, taking care to look for spikes or noticeable breaks.
While you are inside the mouth, take the time to look for any sign of sores, lesions, cuts, or scabs. You can also look to see if the chin and underside are overly wet from uncontrolled drooling.
If you notice anything is not the way it should be, it is time to take your pet to a professional for a more thorough exam.
Explain to the vet what you found when you did your dental check and be prepared to answer questions on diet and other possible symptoms you may have noticed.
What Dental Problems Do Guinea Pigs Have?
Just like us, guinea pigs can get a variety of oral issues.
Among the various problems experienced by guinea pigs are ulcers and sores, long tooth roots, malocclusion (improper alignment of the teeth, which can mean your pet’s teeth are not being ground down properly, infections, broken or missing teeth, and abscesses.
Many of these can be avoided with preventative care, while others require a trip to the vet. Checking her mouth on a regular basis helps to make sure that you catch any potential problems before they get out of hand!
Do Guinea Pigs Teeth Fall Out?
Although they are not supposed to, it does happen that a guinea pig will lose a tooth. The good news is that if this happens, it will quickly grow back.
When a guinea pig does lose a tooth, keep in mind that this is not a normal occurrence for your pet and that there may be some underlying issue causing the problem.
To make sure that everything is okay with her, you should get your pet seen by a vet to rule out any serious illness.
There are three main causes of teeth falling out.
Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) is the most common cause of lost teeth. When teeth are loose or missing in the mouth, your pet may find eating painful, and could abandon eating altogether.
You can provide Vitamin supplements in liquid or treat form, or you can give them oranges, carrots, parsley, and bell peppers, all of which have a high Vitamin C content.
Trauma is another cause of missing teeth in guinea pigs. A hard fall, using teeth to pull on cage wires, or chewing on things that are too hard are common ways for your pet to lose her teeth.
Diet also plays a part since if the diet is inadequate, the teeth could weaken, making them more susceptible to injury. If she does lose a tooth, make sure the hole stays clean until the new one grows in.
Lastly, genetics can play a role in tooth loss, but it is a rare condition. Occasionally a guinea pig may be born with no teeth at all, or with teeth that are extremely weak.
This can allow them to move out of alignment or fall out easily. You are best to consult your vet for the best course of action in this case.
Do Guinea Pigs Teeth Need Trimming?
With proper nutrition, good care, and plenty of appropriate chew toys, there should be no need to trim the teeth on your guinea pig. However, this is not always the case in a perfect world, and at some point, most owners find they need a trip to the vet to get their pet’s teeth trimmed down to a more manageable length.
When they live in the wild, guinea pigs chew on a variety of hardwood, flowers, twigs, and hay to keep their teeth properly trimmed.
To replicate this diet in a household pet, you must provide plenty of good quality Timothy hay, wooden chew toys safe for guinea pigs, and a small amount of hard veggies or fruit like apples and carrots (also a great source of Vitamin C).
You can also find twigs from trees outside for them to chew on, such as birch, linden, pear, or apple. Just make sure that the wood has not been sprayed with any pesticides that could make her sick.
You should visually check your pet’s teeth at least once a week to make sure they are not becoming overgrown. Some signs to look for include teeth that are beginning to yellow, sharp edges to the teeth, a discharge from the nose or eyes, and a pet who is reluctant to eat.
Although some owners do trim the teeth themselves, this is not recommended. Your veterinarian will do a much more thorough job, and with the use of sedation there will be much less stress on your pet.
While they are under anaesthetic the vet will take a good look around the entire mouth as well to ensure there are no other problems.
Should I Brush My Guinea Pigs Teeth?
You should absolutely NOT brush the teeth on your guinea pig under any circumstances.
Guinea pigs do not have the same type of teeth as humans, and they do not require regular cleaning. You may have noticed in the pet store that you can buy a toothbrush and toothpaste for cats and dogs but not for guinea pigs?
Since the teeth in your guinea pig’s mouth grow constantly, and are constantly being filed down, they basically get new teeth every month. An excellent brand of Timothy hay is abrasive enough to both clean the teeth and help to file them down. Make sure that she always has plenty of hay and fresh water to wash it down.
If you check your pet on a regular basis, and provide a perfectly balanced diet for her, the twenty teeth she has should last a lifetime with few problems.
Surprisingly, guinea pigs have twenty teeth in their small and often-closed mouths. While they often do not show them, they are very important to your guinea pig.
As they continuously grow, guinea pigs are heavily reliant on their diet and chewing behaviors to keep their teeth at an appropriate length. Trimming is not typically required, but it is sometimes necessary.
As an owner, you must ensure that your guinea pig maintains good dental hygiene and you can do this through providing liberal amounts of hay, hard veggies and toys.
Beyond this, regular at home checkups and visits to the vet can ensure that their teeth do not grow out excessively, become misaligned or cause them any pain.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.