Hamsters have long teeth because they grow continuously throughout their lives. They grind their teeth down naturally through wear and tear, but they can quickly overgrow.
Hamsters have open-rooted incisors, which means the root canal doesn’t stop growing new tissue. They need long, sharp teeth to eat tough foods and fight off predators.
Because hamsters grind their teeth down through wear and tear, the teeth keep growing to replace what’s naturally removed.
All hamsters are at risk of having overgrown teeth. However, you mustn’t attempt to trim a hamster’s teeth yourself in case you cause harm. Teeth that are too short are just as problematic.
How Quickly Do Hamsters Teeth Grow?
Cell Reports discusses how hamsters have continuously growing teeth.
Hamsters must keep their teeth the right length by eating tough foods, such as Whimzees and shelled nuts, and chewing on wooden items. Unfortunately, some hamsters chew on their cage bars, putting them at risk of breaking their teeth and hurting their nose.
While the growth rate varies, it’s estimated that hamsters’ teeth grow as quickly as fingernails. Similarly, their teeth will grow faster – up to 1 mm a day on average – if they’ve had their incisors trimmed.
Incisors must be clipped at the same length, or they’ll grow at different lengths.
Do Hamster Teeth Grow Back?
It’s not uncommon for hamsters to lose their teeth. Solid foods or unforeseen accidents can cause hamsters to break their incisors.
While hamsters, particularly Syrians and Campbell’s, are solitary animals, they can lose teeth during fights with their littermates. Teeth don’t always come out completely, though. They can chip or break.
While you may feel concerned if you notice a problem with your hamster’s teeth, they will eventually grow back to their regular length.
Your hamster will struggle to eat, though, so you must feed it pureed foods that it can easily eat without using its teeth. You shouldn’t have to do this for very long.
As mentioned, hamsters’ teeth grow fast, so it doesn’t take long for them to reach a usable length.
Why Do Hamsters’ Teeth Keep Growing?
According to The Jackson Laboratory, hamsters’ teeth keep growing because they have open-rooted teeth. This means the root canal continually grows new teeth tissue, resulting in ever-growing teeth.
Fingernails grow in a similar way to hamster incisors. Even when the tissue disappears, the nail bed will make more. Even nails that are removed will grow back, just like hamster teeth.
Because hamsters’ teeth naturally get worn down through everyday wear and tear, they keep growing without stopping. Wild hamsters need their teeth to defend themselves from predators.
Without them, they’d have no chance of survival. Not only do hamsters shorten their teeth, but they sharpen them to make it easier to tear through tough foods.
While ever-growing teeth can seem like a problem, they grind down over time. They only become an issue when hamsters don’t have access to accessories and food items they need to keep their teeth short.
However, it’s only the incisors at the front that don’t stop growing. They don’t need their molars to fight or break food open, so they remain the same size and length.
How Can I Tell if My Hamster’s Teeth Are Too Long?
Overgrown incisors are a serious problem for hamsters. They poke through the tongue and gums if they grow too long, resulting in painful abscesses and sores.
In the most severe cases, teeth become misaligned, growing into your hamster’s mouth and skull. It also prevents them from eating and drinking properly, increasing the risk of starvation and dehydration.
The most common hamster overgrown teeth symptoms include:
- Teeth becoming curved or sticking out
- Teeth getting stuck on things
- Struggling or ceasing to eat entirely
- Teeth don’t meet in the middle or appear misaligned
- Hamster tries to chew its cage bars more often than usual
The bottom teeth should be 2-3 times longer than the top. Periodically check your hamster’s teeth, and take action before the teeth become significantly overgrown.
Can You Trim Hamsters Teeth?
In most cases, you won’t need to trim a hamster’s teeth. Hamsters can keep their teeth filed down to a suitable length.
However, if your hamster is sick or lazy and can’t shorten its teeth, you’ll need to assist. The process of cutting your hamster’s teeth so that they’re shorter is called trimming.
Unless you’re trained or highly experienced, you mustn’t trim your hamster’s teeth yourself. While it’s possible to do so with a sharp pair of clippers, any mistake will make matters worse.
Why You Shouldn’t Clip a Hamster’s Teeth
While leaving your hamster’s teeth to continually grow without intervention is dangerous, cutting them without experience risks hurting your pet hamster.
You shouldn’t cut your hamster’s teeth because you could:
- Trim off too much of your hamster’s teeth
- Catch your hamster’s gums or tongue, harming them
- Introduce harmful bacteria into your hamster’s mouth
- Cause your hamster to become frightened of you
Give your hamster a wooden or textured treat so that it can trim its teeth naturally.
How Much Does Hamster Teeth Trimming Cost?
The hamster teeth trimming cost depends on the exact treatment your hamster needs.
For example, your hamster’s teeth may need to be smoothed with a bone file or dental drill. You may also find that your hamster only needs one tooth trimmed because its teeth have become misaligned.
It costs between $20 for a teeth trimming procedure. However, most vets charge a consultation fee on top of that.
There are also other costs to consider, including:
- An examination before the procedure: $20-40
- Anesthetic: $50
- Antibiotics: $20 to $40
- Critical care food to last a few weeks or months: $50
You may not need an anesthetic and antibiotics but bear in mind that hamsters are prey animals and will protect themselves by attempting to escape the vet’s grip.
How To Keep Your Hamsters Teeth Short?
Before taking your hamster to a vet to get its teeth trimmed, there are other options. This includes:
Provide Gnawing Toys
Hamsters need natural materials to gnaw on to keep their teeth filed down.
Plastic items are too easy to chew holes through and can be eaten, causing a dangerous impaction. Wooden chew toys are the best kind because they’re hard enough to file teeth but won’t cause gut problems.
Hamsters that need to gnaw will:
- Bite their cage bars
- Gnaw at any items they can find, such as their exercise wheel or hideouts
This behavior’s known as a stereotypy and signifies that your hamster’s deeply stressed and unhappy within its environment. You can stop it by adding chew toys to your hamster’s enclosure to shorten its teeth out.
Feed Shelled Nuts and Seeds
Provide shelled nuts and seeds alongside wooden chew toys to encourage your hamster to keep its teeth filed down.
Hamsters get mental enrichment from biting their way through the tough outer shell, so providing tough foods has multiple benefits.
Monkey nuts and walnuts are some of the best treats for shortening teeth. However, as they’re fatty and relatively high in calories, limit them to a few times a week.
Whimzees are another good treat. While designed for dogs, they’re safe for hamsters to eat. They’re also too big for hamsters to pouch. You can leave one in your hamster’s cage for it to nibble on every night.
Leave Your Hamster Alone
Unless your hamster’s teeth are showing signs of overgrowth, you don’t need to do anything.
If you’ve provided enough foods and chew toys, it could already be in the process of trimming its teeth down itself. Monitor your hamster to ensure it can eat properly and give it a little time to carry out its natural behaviors.
If you’ve only recently got your hamster, you don’t need to teach it how to file its teeth down. It will already know how to do so. That being said, it may not be able to if it’s unwell.
Things that may prevent your hamster from shortening its teeth include:
- Painful sores in the mouth
- Misaligned teeth
- Sickness, such as wet tail
As soon as any issues arise, seek veterinary help to get the teeth shortened.
Because your hamster’s teeth continuously grow, you must monitor them to ensure they remain a suitable length. Unless they start to curve or impact your hamster’s ability to eat and drink, there’s unlikely to be a problem.