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Why Do Hamsters Teeth Never Stop Growing?

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 04:11 pm

Hamsters have long teeth because they grow continuously throughout their lives. They grind their teeth down naturally through wear and tear, but they can become overgrown if this doesn’t happen.

Hamsters have open-rooted incisors, which means the root canal doesn’t stop growing. They need long, sharp teeth to eat tough foods and defend themselves from predators.

As hamsters grind their teeth down through wear and tear, they keep growing to replace what’s removed.

All hamsters are at risk of having overgrown teeth. However, don’t attempt to trim a hamster’s teeth yourself because this could cause harm. Teeth that are too short are just as problematic.

How Quickly Do Hamsters Teeth Grow?

Hamsters can 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 human fingernails. Similarly, their teeth will grow faster – up to 1 mm a day on average – if their incisors are trimmed.

If they become too long, incisors must be clipped to the right 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 hamsters’ teeth.

Because hamsters’ teeth naturally get worn down through everyday wear and tear, they keep growing. Wild hamsters need their teeth to defend themselves from predators.

Without them, they’d have little 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 may seem like a problem, they grind down. They only become an issue when hamsters don’t have access to accessories and food items needed to keep their teeth short.

However, only the incisors at the front 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 to keep your hamsters teeth short

Do Hamster Teeth Grow Back?

It’s not uncommon for hamsters to lose teeth, as solid foods and unforeseen accidents can cause them to break their incisors.

While hamsters, particularly Syrians and Campbells, are solitary animals, they can lose teeth during fights with littermates. Teeth don’t always come out entirely, chipping or breaking.

While you may feel concerned if you notice a problem with your hamster’s teeth, they’ll eventually grow back to their normal length.

Your hamster will struggle to eat, so you must feed it pureed foods that it can eat without using its teeth. Hamsters’ teeth grow fast, so reaching a usable length doesn’t take long.

How Can I Tell if My Hamster’s Teeth Are Too Long?

Overgrown incisors poke through the tongue and gums, causing painful abscesses and sores.

In 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 symptoms of overgrown teeth include:

  • Teeth are 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.
  • The hamster tries to chew its cage bars more often than usual.

The bottom teeth should be 2-3 times longer than the top, so check your hamster’s teeth periodically.

Can You Trim Hamsters’ Teeth?

If your hamster is sick and can’t shorten its teeth, it’ll need assistance.

Unless you’re trained or experienced, you mustn’t trim the hamster’s teeth. While it’s possible to do so with a sharp pair of clippers, any mistake will worsen matters.

While leaving the hamster’s teeth to grow continually without intervention is dangerous, cutting them without experience risks harming a hamster. You could cause the following problems:

  • Trim off too much of the teeth.
  • Catch the gums or tongue.
  • Introduce harmful bacteria to the mouth.
  • Cause the hamster to become frightened of you.

Give the hamster a wooden object or textured treat to trim its teeth naturally.

How Much Does Hamster Teeth Trimming Cost?

The cost of hamster teeth trimming depends on the treatment it 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 $20 for a teeth-trimming procedure. However, there are also other costs to consider, including:

  • An examination before the procedure: $20-40
  • Anesthetic: $50
  • Antibiotics: $20 to $40
  • Critical care food for a few weeks: $50

You may not need an anesthetic and antibiotics, but bear in mind that hamsters are prey animals that’ll protect themselves by attempting to escape the vet’s grip.

hamster overgrown teeth symptoms

How To Keep A Hamster’s Teeth Short?

Before taking your hamster to a vet to get its teeth trimmed, there are other options, such as:

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 impaction. Wooden chew toys are recommended because they’re hard enough to file teeth but won’t cause gut problems.

Hamsters that need to gnaw will:

This behavior is called a stereotypie, signifying the hamster is stressed and unhappy within its environment. You can stop it by adding chew toys to the enclosure to shorten its teeth.

Shelled Nuts and Seeds

Provide shelled nuts and seeds alongside wooden chew toys. Hamsters get mental enrichment from biting their way through the tough outer shell, so providing tough foods has various benefits.

Monkey nuts and walnuts are among 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, Whimzees are safe for hamsters to eat and too big for their pouch. You can leave a Whimzee in the cage for a hamster to nibble at night.

Leaving The Hamster Alone

If you’ve provided enough food and chew toys, it could be trimming its teeth down itself. Monitor the hamster to ensure it can eat properly and give it time to carry out natural behaviors.

You don’t need to teach it to file its teeth down. That said, it may not be able to if it’s unwell. The things that may prevent your hamster from shortening its teeth include:

  • Painful sores in the mouth
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Sickness, such as wet tail

Because a hamster’s teeth continuously grow, monitor them to ensure they remain the right length. Unless they curve or impact the hamster’s ability to eat and drink, there’s unlikely to be a problem.