Dental structure in our rabbits is different to dogs and cats. They have SIX incisors, two large both top and bottom and two tiny ‘peg teeth’ that sit behind the top incisors. Rabbits do not have canine teeth but instead a space between their incisors and their molars and premolars. Collectively these back teeth are referred to as the ‘cheek teeth’.
Each of the rabbit’s 28 teeth grow at between 1-3mm each week meaning diet is incredibly important. Dental disease in our rabbits is related to diet and genetics, the latter of which we cannot change once born!
Incisor malocclusion refers to the abnormal lining up of our front teeth. This may be something a rabbit is born with, or may be an indicator of problems with the cheek teeth. Age, history, breed and a thorough examination will help your veterinarian determine what is going on within the mouth. For primary incisor malocclusion with normal molars, we can consider surgical removal of all the incisors. If molars are involved we need to investigate further.
Molar problems can involve the crowns of the tooth or the roots. Crown problems can be described as stepping (uneven teeth), spurring (teeth growing sideways and damaging the soft tissue) and elongation. The roots may be abnormal, progressing to abscessed where pockets of pus form around the tooth and within the bone.
Conscious assessment of our teeth will show indicators of disease, however without anaesthesia we are not able to fully assess what is happening within the mouth. Dental radiographs may further be performed to get an idea as to what is going on within the bone of the skull. Due to the unique structure of the rabbits head, we can see secondary problems such as eye and nasal issues occurring.
Six monthly check ups as a minimum are recommended for all rabbit patients so that early identification and intervention can be performed. Diet will play a massive role within your rabbits oral health and should be discussed at length with your veterinary team. Whilst often we cannot fully cure many of our dental problems with rabbits, there are a lot of management practices that can help your long eared friend live a happy and pain free life.