How to Clean Your Rat's Teeth

Two Parts:Checking and Trimming Your Rat's TeethKeeping Your Rat's Teeth Clean With Preventative Measures

If you have a pet rat, you may be wondering how to care for its teeth. Luckily, rats do not require much dental care, but it is still a good idea to check on their teeth now and then. There are also some easy preventative measures you can take to stave off cavities and other dental problems.

Part 1
Checking and Trimming Your Rat's Teeth

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    Learn about your rat's dental needs. Rats do not usually need any dental care, including brushing. Rat molars are located inside of a pouch in the back of their mouths behind a section of gums called the diastema. A veterinarian has to use a speculum to dilate the pouch that contains the molars, so they are not accessible for brushing. The only visible teeth in your rat’s mouth are the yellow or orange colored incisors in the front of his mouth.
    • Keep in mind that your rat’s incisors are yellow or orange because this is their natural color, not because they are dirty.[1]
    • You can monitor your rat’s dental health by checking his teeth regularly and trimming them if necessary.
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    Restrain your rat. Before you attempt to check or trim your rat’s incisors, make sure that your rat is properly restrained so he will not escape or injure you. It is a good idea to have one person restrain your rat while another person cares for his teeth.[2]
    • One way to effectively restrain your rat is by cutting the toe off of a sock and slipping it over the rat's head to create a straight jacket. You can then use masking tape to secure the sock around the rat's neck, being careful that it is not too tight. You can twist the bottom end of the sock or secure it with safety pins.
    • If you don't want to try the straight jacket, you can also try wrapping the rat up in a towel or simply holding him firmly with two hands.
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    Check for dental problems. It's a good idea to periodically check your rat's teeth for some of the most common dental problems. If you notice any abnormalities, you should take the rat to the vet for a diagnosis. Signs of dental problems may include smelly breath and a buildup of food or excessive saliva.[3]
    • There are many symptoms your rat may exhibit that do not require you to look in his mouth. If you notice a change in eating or drinking habits, increased tears, discharge from the mouth, lumps in the cheeks, or chewing movements when your rat is not eating, he may be suffering from a dental problem.[4]
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    Trim excessively long teeth. One of the most common dental problems in rats is overgrown front teeth, so it's important to pay attention to their length and alignment while you check for other dental problems. The bottom and top teeth should line up with each other, which allows them to grind. If they are crooked, unevenly worn, or overlapping, they may require trimming in order to prevent painful sores and difficulty eating.[5]
    • Check your rat's teeth to see if the incisors are aligned. If you notice that one tooth is longer than the others or sharpened to a point, then your rat's teeth will need to be trimmed.
    • Do not try to trim your rat's teeth on your own. If you think that your rat's teeth need to be trimmed, then take your rat to see a veterinarian. Rat teeth can crack down into the root when clipped, which can cause intense pain for your rat. Your rat's veterinarian will use a special dental burr to make a clean cut.
    • You can maintain your rat's teeth by feeding him a proper diet and taking him to the veterinarian for checkups and additional trims as needed.

Part 2
Keeping Your Rat's Teeth Clean With Preventative Measures

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    Feed your rat a proper diet. The best thing you can do to help keep your rat's teeth clean and healthy is to feed him the right foods. Give your rat a well-balanced diet, such as store-bought rat food pellets supplemented with raw fruits and vegetables. These foods have the right nutrient content and consistency for optimal dental health.[6]
    • Avoid giving your rat anything that is high in sugar, as these foods allow bacteria to thrive in the mouth.[7]
    • Hard treats, like dog biscuits, are very good for your rat's dental health, so offer these once a week.[8]
    • Tree branches, which rats love to chew on, are also great for helping to keep your rat's teeth clean. Not all types are safe for rats, but elm, ash, maple, birch, apple, orange, peach, and pear tree branches are all good choices.[9]
    • Wild grasses and weeds are good for your rat's teeth, as long as they are not treated in any way.[10]
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    Give your rat something to chew on. Rats love to chew, and this behavior helps keep their teeth clean and healthy by removing food particles and grinding down the constantly growing incisors. You can buy chew toys for your rat at your local pet store.[11]
    • Some rats enjoy chewing on dog treats, like beef bones and pig's ears.
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    Avoid introducing bacteria. Rats can acquire periodontal disease-causing bacteria from humans if you kiss them or share food with them. Avoid doing these things in order to keep your rat's teeth strong and healthy.[12]
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    Bring your rat to the vet. Regular veterinary checkups are important to maintain your rat's dental and overall health. Your vet will likely be able to spot any dental problems before you do.[13]
    • Your vet can also give you recommendations for how to best care for your individual rat's teeth. Remember that healthy rats typically do not need any dental care at all. If your rat has some kind of dental problem, your vet might recommend that your clean and/or trim its teeth.


  • Always take your rat to the vet if you suspect he has any dental problems.

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Categories: Mice and Rats