Sometimes we will see overgrown or abnormally shaped incisors, which is part of the problem, but is always a sign that we need to check the molars as well. If the teeth are not aligned properly, or if they are not doing lots of good grinding chewing, then the edges of the molar teeth can form long spurs which cause pain as they cut into the cheeks or tongue. In extreme cases the spurs on the insides of the teeth can form a complete bridge over the tongue, trapping it & stopping the guinea pig from being able to drink or swallow.
If spurs are developing, then it is very important to remove these under a general anaesthetic to relieve the pain & help return to normal chewing/grinding function. There is a remarkable similarity between guinea pig & horse dentistry, except guinea pigs obviously give us vets a lot less space to work with! Here at Rochedale Vet, we have a special collection of tools especially for working inside guinea pigs’ mouths. We have a device that helps to keep the mouth open, & special cutters designed for removing dental spurs. Once this is done, we file the teeth with our diamond rasp to remove all the sharp edges. Because the underlying reason is usually to do with the shape of the jaw or teeth, if a guinea pig has dental disease, it is likely to need regular dental procedures to remove spurs, as they will continue to form over its life.
Some things you can do to ensure your guinea pig has the best chance of a healthy mouth is to provide a continuous supply of ‘roughage’ – hay that is mostly fibre & low protein, (eg Timothy hay), which encourages lots of chewing & grinding to wear those tooth surfaces. Providing a pelleted diet (in moderation) designed for guinea pigs, lots of fresh vegetables to ensure plenty of vitamin C, & allowing access to sunlight for vitamin D production will help ensure healthy jawbone development.
Because of their tendency not to tell us there is a problem until it is quite severe, if you notice any changes to your pet’s eating habits (such as dropping food, or looking interested, then stopping eating after a few bites), weight loss or being quieter than usual, then coming in for a check up as soon as possible gives us the best chance of helping them out. The longer the problem goes on, the less well they are likely to cope with an anaesthetic, & the more permanent changes are likely to occur.