How to Know if Your Rat's Teeth Are Too Long

Three Parts:Checking Your Rat's TeethLooking for Other SymptomsDealing With Overgrown Teeth

Rats' incisors, or their four front teeth, continue growing throughout their entire lives. By chewing on hard objects and grinding their teeth together, rats are usually able to maintain healthy teeth without any intervention from humans. Rats with dental problems may not be able to do this, which can result in overgrown teeth that cause pain and difficulty eating.[1] It is important to check your rat's teeth regularly to make sure they are not overgrown. Rats who suffer from dental problems should be checked every one to three weeks,[2] while rats with no known dental problems may be checked less frequently.

Part 1
Checking Your Rat's Teeth

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    Restrain your rat. Your rat will not want to hold still while you look at his teeth, so it's important to make sure he is properly restrained. Ideally, you should have a second person hold the rat while you examine his teeth.[3] When the rat is restrained, you should be able to gently lift his upper lip with your finger to observe his incisors.[4]
    • The simplest way to restrain a rat is by holding him firmly around the torso with two hands.
    • You can also try wrapping the rat in a towel.
    • If your rat is particularly squirmy, you can use an old sock to create a straight jacket for him. Simply cut off the toe of the sock and place the tube around your rat's body. Then use some masking tape to tape the sock loosely around your rat's neck. Be sure to secure the bottom of the sock as well.
    • If your rat is especially cooperative, you can try letting him stand on his hind legs on a table, holding him upright with one hand right under his front legs. Use your free hand hand to open his mouth.
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    Observe the length of the teeth. Once you have your rat properly restrained and you can see her teeth, pay attention to the length of the incisors. The top incisors should be approximately 4 mm long, and the bottom incisors should be approximately 7 mm long. The teeth should be long enough that they rub against each other, but they should not overlap.[5]
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    Check for alignment problems. While you are observing the length of your rat's incisors, pay attention to their alignment as well. If the top and bottom teeth do not line up with each other, they will not be able to grind against each other properly. Even if your rat's teeth are not too long now, misalignment is a sign that they might grow out of control without intervention, so be sure to check them frequently[6]

Part 2
Looking for Other Symptoms

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    Watch for discharge. If your rat has any discharge coming from his mouth or if he seems to be drooling excessively, he may be suffering from a dental problem associated with overgrown teeth.[7]
    • This may also cause your rat's breath to smell very bad.
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    Pay attention to how your rat eats. If your rat has lost weight or does not seem to be eating normally, this may be a sign that her teeth are too long. Overgrown teeth can make it difficult or even impossible for your rat to eat, so make sure to act quickly![8]
    • If your rat appears to be chewing constantly, even when she is not eating, this may also be a sign that her teeth need attention.
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    Look for lumps. If you notice any lumps on your rat's face, these may be abscesses caused by overgrown teeth. This is probably causing your rat a lot of pain, so don't delay treatment.[9]
    • If your rat has abscesses, you will probably notice that he seems reluctant to eat hard foods due to pain.

Part 3
Dealing With Overgrown Teeth

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    Bring your rat to the vet. If your rat's teeth are too long, the easiest and safest way to take care of the problem is to bring her to the vet to have her teeth professionally trimmed.[10]
    • Keep in mind that if your rat's teeth need to be trimmed, it will probably have to be done every few weeks.
    • Be sure to take your rat to the vet right away if you think she has abscesses from her overgrown teeth.
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    Clip your rat's teeth. If you don't want to take your rat to the vet every time he needs to have his teeth clipped, you can try doing it yourself. Make sure you have your rat properly restrained and then use a pair of nail clippers designed for cats or birds to clip the incisors to the correct length, which is approximately 4 mm long on top and 7 mm long on bottom.[11]
    • Be aware there is a risk of splitting the tooth along it's length with clippers. This can be extremely painful if the tooth splinters all the way down to the nerve. To avoid this, have your vet burr the teeth with a dental instrument.
    • It is possible to crack your rat's teeth while attempting to clip them. If you are uncomfortable with this risk, it's best to have your vet do it.[12]
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    Provide hard treats. If you want to help your rat maintain her own teeth, the best thing you can do is give her hard treats to chew on. Dog biscuits and branches from fruit-bearing trees are excellent treats that rats enjoy and that will help file their teeth down.[13]
    • This strategy may or may not solve the problem that is causing your rat's teeth to grow too long, so be sure to continue checking them weekly and clipping them whenever necessary.


  • Overgrown teeth can cause serious pain and prevent your rat from eating, so act fast if you believe that your rat's teeth are too long.

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Categories: Mice and Rats