Hamsters have long teeth that never stop growing. They wear them down by eating and chewing, but they can break their teeth if they bite on something too hard, such as a shelled nut or cage bars.
A hamster may struggle to eat hard foods if it breaks a tooth. Hamsters’ teeth are open-rooted, so they grow back regardless of whether they’re broken or missing.
The damaged and healthy teeth will grow at different rates, but they should align once the hamster wears them down by eating and gnawing on items.
If hamsters can’t eat, they risk developing nutritional deficiencies and rapid weight loss.
Are Broken Teeth Bad?
Cell Reports describes how hamsters have continuously-growing teeth. They have 16 teeth, consisting of 12 molars and 4 incisors, the latter being the most important.
Hamsters need their long, sharp teeth to survive. As explained by the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), rodents have developed their incisors over millions of years of evolution.
Without them, they can’t crack open nuts, grains, and seeds, so they’re at risk of starvation.
Teeth aren’t only vital for eating. Hamsters use their teeth to bite through plant roots and move things out of the way when burrowing to make nests and tunnels.
They need their sharp incisors to defend themselves from predators. Pet hamsters also rely on breaking and chewing food apart for mental stimulation, which reduces stress and boredom.
Broken teeth aren’t as serious as missing teeth, but they can impact a hamster’s ability to perform basic tasks and can be very painful.
How Do Hamsters Break Their Teeth?
While hamsters can lose teeth, chips and breakages are more common. The causes include the following:
As bars are made from solid metal to prevent hamsters from escaping, they can break or chip teeth. This has other health implications, including mouth and facial injuries.
Broken teeth also make it difficult for hamsters to carry out basic activities.
Eating Hard Foods
Hamsters predominantly eat pellets, seeds, and grains. As mentioned, they also eat shelled nuts, like Brazil nuts and walnuts, which they crack open with their sharp incisors.
A hamster’s diet consists of hard, tough foods, so its front teeth come under prolonged strain. In most cases, slight damage occurs before the tooth cracks and breaks.
Little can be done to prevent this because a hamster needs these foods to survive.
Growing Too Long
Hamsters have open-rooted teeth, which means the root canal constantly grows new tissue.
Natural wear and tear keep teeth filed down, but if hamsters can’t maintain the length of their teeth, they can become overgrown.
When this happens, the teeth knock against each other each time the hamster closes its mouth, with small parts breaking or chipping off.
Some hamsters need assistance keeping their teeth a reasonable length. Vets can trim them down using special tools, but you mustn’t do this at home.
While hamsters, particularly Syrians, are primarily solitary, some species are happy to cohabitate.
Owners aren’t always educated about what’s best for their hamsters and mistakenly keep multiple hamsters in the same enclosure.
Unfortunately, hamsters are territorial and often fight to the death. They use their teeth and nails to inflict maximum damage, meaning teeth can become broken during a fight.
That’s why most species of hamsters should be kept separate, even if they’re from the same litter.
Lack of Nutrients
Teeth are more likely to fall out and break if your hamster doesn’t get enough nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies have health consequences for hamsters, resulting in:
- Poor fur quality
- Fur loss
- Weak teeth
While hamsters shouldn’t have too much calcium, they need the right amount for strong, healthy teeth and bones. Without sufficient calcium, teeth become brittle and prone to breakage.
Hamsters also need iron, zinc, and magnesium to stave off health conditions and weak teeth.
Do Hamster Teeth Grow Back?
Hamsters rely on their teeth to survive, particularly in the wild. Those that can’t eat or defend themselves from predators are at greater risk of dying than those with long, sharp teeth.
Hamsters’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, so they’ll grow back. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the break, the incisor may not grow back the same.
This doesn’t only apply to broken teeth, as missing teeth also grow back. However, some owners report that their hamsters’ incisors don’t grow back fully in rare cases.
The main issue with chipped or broken teeth is the damaged tooth will grow back faster than the other. However, chew toys and tough foods to bite through can help keep them aligned.
How Long Does It Take for Hamsters Teeth To Grow Back?
Hamsters’ teeth grow about as fast as human fingernails. Once incisors are trimmed, they increase by an average of 1 mm per day, which is about the same for broken or chipped teeth.
Teeth grow back slower if hamsters spend a lot of time wearing them down on things they find in their cage, such as wooden chew toys.
How To Care for A Hamster With Broken Teeth
A hamster’s broken incisor will be slightly shorter for a while, but this shouldn’t be a problem. Your hamster will rely on its healthy tooth much more until the damaged one grows back.
If a hamster has missing top teeth and struggles to eat, you’ll need to make it a critical care mix to provide the nutrients it needs while its tooth grows back.
Critical care mixes are available from vets. Then, follow these instructions:
- Get a syringe and draw up around 0.5 ml of the liquid.
- Use your non-dominant hand to hold the hamster and keep the syringe in your other hand.
- Put the syringe into the mouth and slowly empty the contents. You may need to do this in stages to give your hamster time to swallow.
In the meantime, feed your hamster pellets, seeds, and soft fruits and vegetables. You can mash them into a puree that your hamster can lick from its bowl.
How To Check Your Hamster’s Teeth
You won’t always notice a hamster’s broken teeth.
You’ll find it much easier to check a hamster’s teeth while eating. So, you’ll know something’s amiss if it struggles to eat. Examine the hamster’s teeth with these steps:
- Remove the hamster from its cage, scooping it up with two hands.
- Slowly place one hand under its body and the other on top.
- Carefully position the hamster on its back.
- Check the teeth. You may need to pull the skin on the back of the neck to open the mouth.
Hamsters rely on their teeth to survive. Any broken teeth will grow back, as rodents can regenerate tissue. However, the tooth’s color, texture, and angle may differ.