Broken teeth can be the result of a fall, injury or accident. A cavy living on a poor diet can be vulnerable to broken teeth, especially if the diet is deficient in vitamin C, which is essential for bone and tooth growth.
The teeth of a normal healthy guinea pig should grow back just fine. Watch to make sure the remaining teeth do not get so long that they touch the gums or skin of the mouth. If the tooth has broken far down, leaving a hole, and the gum is bloody, periodically flush any food out of the hole and keep it clean with a luke-warm mild saline solution (a teaspoon of common salt dissolved in a pint of warm water will work fine).
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Food: Make absolutely sure your cavy is still able to eat. Cutting food into smaller pieces or feeding by hand may be necessary. If your cavy is unable to use a water bottle, offer liquids by syringe and adequate vegetables and fruits to insure he gets enough water.
Do not arbitrarily clip a cavy's remaining teeth too early or too severely as it can make eating on his own very difficult. Clipping teeth will interfere with his ability to "rip, tear and grasp" food.
Vitamin C: Tooth loss can be aggravated by vitamin C deficiency (scurvy). Ensure that your cavy is getting enough vitamin C by providing a quarter of a 100mg chewable tablet or 25 to 30 mg liquid vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes good bone growth, strong teeth, and healing.
WHEN TO SEE A VET
You may wish to contact a veterinarian if:
The break is ragged.
The opposing teeth begin to curve inward and contact the mouth (possible if most of the tooth and root was lost)
An experienced exotics veterinarian can trim a ragged tooth if needed or slightly clip the remaining teeth if they begin to grow inward. If you suspect any other problem (infection, apparent pain when eating) be sure to see your vet right away.
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
How Fast Will Teeth Grow Back?
Pinta's cavy (pictured below) broke a tooth to the gum line May 5 or 6. At that time, the top incisors were even in length. The first picture shows how the unopposed upper tooth grows down to meet the broken tooth. Trimming this tooth to the same length as the tooth beside it will only delay the teeth meeting.
The following photographs illustrate the gradual growth and adjustment of the tooth to its normal length. They were taken on consecutive dates, May 13, May 19, May 20, May 22, May 24, May 26 and lastly, May 27, about three weeks from the original break.
Pinta's advice on trimming teeth:
"For pigs with normal healthy mouths, trimming of teeth when opposing teeth break is not necessary and may delay the pig from regaining the ability to rip, tear and grasp food. As the broken teeth grow in they will gradually meet the opposing teeth. When they come in contact they will gradually grind each other to the original correct bite. The only reason for concern is if the opposing teeth run the risk of hitting the gums, which could happen if the missing teeth have broken off far down, close to the base, leaving a hole in the gum. (This information comes from my animal dentist.)
"If the gum is bloody and the teeth have broken off far down, leaving a hole, you will have to flush any food out of the hole, and keep it clean with a saline solution. If you can still see the teeth, you probably need do nothing beside providing cut up food and keeping a close watch.
"In the rare occasion of a pig suffering from malocclusion of the front teeth or if the tooth is deeply broken off - trimming of the opposing teeth may be necessary. In a healthy pig with a normal break - trimming is usually not necessary. Not only is this information confirmed by my animal dentist - but it is borne out by 38 years of personal experience with guinea pigs and the occasional broken tooth. We have never trimmed the opposing teeth. And when I asked my regular vet, who has been treating our pigs for 20 years, about trimming back the teeth - she was emphatic in saying "No", citing the fact it will only keep them from eating on their own sooner."
Why are guinea pigs's teeth different lengths?
"Our dentist has marveled at how not one of our pigs has an identical bite and their front teeth are of many varying lengths. Too often people (and some vets) get obsessed with the length of the front teeth confusing individuality with overgrowth and attempting to force the teeth to lengths inappropriate for that particular pig. Rule-of-thumb: If the pig is not losing weight - there most likely is not a problem."
What might happen if the teeth are trimmed too short?
"I got permission from SMC to reprint her post from Cavy Madness.
When my Second Graders noticed that one of Peaches' front teeth was broken near the gum line, I immediately scooted her off to the vet - unfortunately an unknowledgeable one. He trimmed all four front teeth so short that when she tried to eat her apple bit, it dropped from her mouth. She tried several times, and when we noticed, we tried hand feeding - to no avail. There was no way possible for that little tyke to eat.
I phoned the vet's emergency number - got an answering service - and had to wait. When he finally called back and discovered what had happened - that he cut her teeth too short, he shockingly stated that he'd never heard of this happening before!
He said to try to hand feed her until her teeth grew back. I sat with Peaches until after midnight, trying every possible way to get food into her that I knew. FINALLY I tried shaving apple with a potato peeler, gently poked it into her mouth past her front teeth, she got the message, slurped it like spaghetti, and chewed with her back teeth! SUCCESS! Then I took romaine lettuce, rolled it like a cigar and cut it as thinly as possible - also resembling spaghetti - and shoved it in.
The children and I fed her like this for about a week or more, till one day one of the boys yelled, "Hey! Peaches can eat by herself! I saw her do it!" The kids all had to come and see for themselves! Sure enough - her teeth were growing back!
The second incident happened this past school year. (NO WAY did I want to go through THAT again!) A more knowledgeable vet was notified when it was discovered that Princess seemed to be MISSING a front tooth! The vet said to keep an eye on her, but to let the tooth grow back naturally. She didn't even attempt to trim it - and grow back, it did!
SMC shaved carrots, green pepper and other vegetables and was able to feed pellets one at a time, inserted into the mouth.
What happens if a tooth does not grow back?
"Arthur's upper right incisor was extracted due to infection. In his case the remaining incisor curved toward the space of the extracted incisor and also thickened compensating for the missing incisor and wearing the lower incisors evenly. Note the diagonal wearing on the left side of the upper incisor." (click on picture for larger image)
Photos courtesy of Dr. Dr. Loïc Legendre
(copyright © 2005 Dr. Dr. Loïc Legendre)
Is routine tooth trimming necessary?
"Vicki of JPGPR has kindly given me (Pinta) permission to reprint a section of her malocclusion, If Your Cavy Is Losing Weight or Not Eating..., article from the The Guinea Pig Squealer (a three issue, one year subscription available for $5). The entire article can be found at her website along with some other very informative columns.
[Vicki] Please note: cavies DO NOT normally need routine teeth trimming. Cavy teeth grow constantly and are normally worn down constantly by eating pellets and hay. Unless your cavy is having some abnormal problem his teeth do not need routine trimming. I am stressing this because I've been appalled to learn of 2 cases where a non-cavy veterinarian advised owners to bring their cavies in every few weeks for "maintenance" teeth trimming. Unless your cavy has misaligned teeth or some other problem - this is not needed.
"When I asked for her permission - she also gave me permission to reprint a portion of her email regarding teeth trimming:
[Vicki]"...As a note though, one case of a vet recommending routine teeth trimming was told to me by my vet. She was absolutely appalled, it was being done at another clinic in the same area. Thankfully the owners finally brought their cavy into her clinic for a 2nd opinion. The poor pig was very thin because his incisors were too short to allow him to pick up food. Plus he seemed to be in pain after each trimming as the teeth were cut so short. What unnecessary torture!"