If you’ve got a hamster, then you need to know about the teeth problems your friend can develop. Hamster’s teeth are crucial to their health, so you need to know how to help him out if something happens.
I’ll cover the main dental problems hamsters can get into, how to check for those problems, and how to treat them.
What a normal, healthy hamster’s teeth should look like
A healthy hamster’s teeth are quite long, yellow-ish orange, and a bit see-through. The hamster’s teeth look very different from a human’s teeth.
Hamsters, like most rodents, have 2 pairs of incisor teeth. The lower pair is the longer pair, and will look very large compared to the top pair.
You will see your hamster’s teeth clearly when he bites the cage, since he often bites hard onto them.
Normally, your hammy’s teeth should be aligned, and ‘meet’ properly, both pairs forming a nice close.
You can also check your hamster’s teeth by holding him and gently scruffing the back of his neck. This does not hurt if done right, since you are only pulling a little at the fur on the back of his head.
This will reveal the hamster’s teeth, and you can check them for yourself. Do not be surprised that your hamster’s teeth aren’t white, or very pale. Yellow teeth in hamsters is no unhealthy.
However you should worry a bit if you start seeing white spots on your hamster’s teeth. Usually they’re brittle sport in the teeth, and will crumble. Those can be serious dental problems that require a veterinarian.
A hamster’s teeth are always growing
A hamster’s life is defined by chewing, and gnawing, and biting some more.
Hamster are rodents, and as such they have an inherent need to always be chewing on something. This is mostly because their front teeth are always growing. So, your hamster friend need to file them down regularly in order to keep them healthy.
This can be done in several ways, but it’s mostly through the tough food your hamster chews every day, and whatever he chews on aside from that, like chew toys.
Teeth problems hamsters can develop, and how to spot them
Your hamster can develop dental problems. That can happen to anyone, but given the small size of hamsters, and how important their teeth are, it’s more of a problem for them.
There are 3 main types of problems your hammy can run into, and in the rest of this article we’ll cover how you can help your friend.
The most common problem found with hamsters, overgrown teeth lead to several problems. Those problems can be that the hamster isn’t able to eat enough, is in pain, and will possibly be grumpy.
Teeth can become overgrown if the hamster isn’t filing down his teeth. This can mean that the food he’s being fed isn’t hard enough – hamsters need hard, chewable foods – so he can’t file the teeth down.
Or, it could be that he has nowhere to file the teeth down onto, like chew toys or cage bars. If you’ve got a glass tank for your hammy, and he’s got nothing to chew on, that’s a problem.
Infections can occur if the hamster’s gums become hurt in some way (like something sharp scraping them) and the bacteria has a way into the animal’s body.
Or, it could be tooth decay from possibly sugary food (depending on what you feed your hamster), which can lead to an infection.
In any case, this is something to treat at the vet.
Sometimes, hamsters are born with tooth problems. Like misshapen teeth, and in those cases it’s best to get the hammy to the vet so he can help the hamster.
If the hammy’s teeth are healthy and straight, but end up breaking, that again means a trip to the vet. This can happen if your hamster’s got weak teeth, or if he chews on much too hard surfaces, like the metal bars in his cage, or the running wheel.
Typical symptoms to look for
Usually hamster dental problems can be spotted fairly quickly. There’s just a few things you should check your hamster for, so see if he’s alright.
An infection especially, will smell terrible. Your normally clean and non-smelly hammy might have terrible breath if he’s got an infection.
You can notice this when you pick up the hamster and play with it. Or, by giving it something to chew onto and then you might smell the problem.
The smell is caused by the pus and irritation in the hamster’s mouth, where the abscess is located. If you scruff the hammy you will probably be able to see which tooth is infected.
You’ll notice the gum around the tooth is red, swollen, and might already have whitish spots where the infection is coming out. This needs to be treated immediately, otherwise your hamster is at serious risk.
Sudden loss of appetite
This can come along with an infection, or even just overgrown teeth.
If you’ve noticed your hamster’s food bowl has been mysteryously full these past few days, you should check on the hamster. It can happen that your hamster isn’t able to feed himself properly lately, and he needs your help.
Now, do keep in mind that hamsters can and do become very picky eaters. So if you’ve got a food mix, and only some parts of it are still in the food bowl the next day, your hamster is fine.
For example my Teddy (Syrian adult male) favors the sunflower seeds, peanuts, and other vitamin bits he finds in his food bowl, and leaves the plain grains aside. He’s still a healthy Syrian hammy though, he just gets picky.
However if you’ve noticed that your hamster is also losing a bit of weight, this is also a sign. You can check the weight by placing your hammy in a cup he can’t get out of (like a tall glass, or plastic cup) and weighing him on a kitchen scale.
Make sure to account for the weight of the cup !
This is another sign that something might be wrong with your hamster’s teeth. Chattering teeth are usually a sign of nervousness, and are accompanied by a short temper, and lots of cage biting. He might even bite you, he’s in no mood to play.
If your hamster has chattering teeth, and also chews on the cage bars a lot, it could be a possible tooth problem indicator. Like tooth pain, or an infection.
Do keep in mind that chattering teeth can show up even if your hamster is healthy. He could be just aggitated or trying to intimidate you.
So make a mental note of chattering teeth, but this is not a clear sign of just tooth problems.
Hamsters, like cats, do not drool normally. They do have saliva, but their mouth is usually ‘dry’.
So if your hamster is suddenly drooling, it could be a sign of him not being able to close his mouth properly because of his teeth.
Hamsters, like humans, do not respond well to pain or stress. So if your hammy has a tooth ache, he might be snappy. Imagine your last tooth ache.
So your usually mild and cute hamster might turn into a snappy, nippy hammy with no patience for anything. He might not even let you touch him in some cases.
Now, not all ill-tempered hamsters have tooth aches. But this could be a sign of tooth problems. Especially if it’s a change that came on suddenly.
If your hammy suddenly started biting the cage bars, this too could be a sign. Hamsters always need to chew on something, but if he’s ignored the bars until now, that says something.
Your hammy could be seeking some relief from the cage bars, instead of his chew toy because the bars are, well, much harder and are also cold.
If your hammy’s got an infection, the gums will seem very hot to him, and he’ll want to cool off a bit.
Obviously, your hammy biting the cage bars is not a good idea. And it’s not healthy for his teeth either, since he can actually break or crack his teeth on the bars.
Filing down overgrown hamster teeth
If your hamster’s got overgrown teeth, then he will need to file them down. This happens by repeated chewing and biting onto hard surfaces. But, those surfaces should never be as hard as the cage bars, or the glass of his glass tank.
There’s two ways your can go about this.
The hamster will file them down himself
Most of the time, the hamster will file the teeth down himself. If he’s got proper food and chew toys, he will do that himself.
Your hamster’s front teeth are always growing, so he always needs to do this. You can help him out here by giving him the right kind of toys to use for his teeth.
Chew toys and other options for your hamster friend
One option is chew toys. Hamsters do well with wood based chew toys.
This set’s got several toys, so your hammy will have lots of options to choose from.
You can find the listing on Amazon here, and see the reviews for yourself.
Another option is giving your hamster friend a walnut, or a chestnut so he will want to chew and gnaw on it. My teddy has a walnut in his cage and he goes absolutely insane when he sees it. He just has to break the thing open or he won’t know what he’ll do.
He never did manage to open the walnut, hamsters aren’t squirrels. But he loves biting into the shell, and your hammy will probably do the same if your give him one.
Other options include bendy bridges, which are made from wood, and can serve as a great chew toy for your hamster friend. You will find those on Amazon as well.
And finally, hamsters will chew on absolutely everything. Including their food bowl and hideout. For this reason, and not only (more on that here) I recommend you get your hamster friend a wooden hideout.
And he will chew on his hideout, without even getting out of his nest.
I looked around for a hideout very similar to the one I have for my Teddy. My hammy already shaved fairly large chunks of the inside, in the year and the half since he’s had his hideout.
Still, he loves it, and it keeps his scent.
You can find the listing on Amazon for this wooden hamster house here, and read the reviews.
If the case is severe, and immediate attention is needed, you can also take your hamster friend to the vet. He will know what to do to file down the hammy’s teeth.
There are a few guides to filing down hamster teeth at home, or even clipping them. But I honestly discourage them, since the animal isn’t comfortable, and you need a lot of training to make sure you do not hurt the hamster.
Please do not file or clip your hamster’s teeth at home. Seek professional care for him.
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Infections in hamster teeth
Sometimes the hamster’s teeth can get infected. This can happen like with humans too.
Maybe the hamster ate a food that made a small cut in his gums, and that cut got infected. There could be other reasons, but the end result is the same.
Checking for infections in your hamster’s teeth
Red, angry, inflamed gum(s), and a bit of pus. This is dangerous for your hamster to swallow, so it must be solved quickly.
You can check this by holding the hamster in your hand, and gently scruffing him. This will pull back his lips and you will see his teeth. He might not like being held like this, so expect a bit of squirming.
Expect lots of squirming if the hamster does have a serious infection, since it will possibly hurt him a bit.
Treating your hamster’s teeth infection
If the gums or mouth looks at any point like I just described above, then your hamster might be dealing with an infection.
In this case, take your hamster to the veterinarian. He will prescribe a round of antibiotics that are safe for small animals. He will tell you how to administer the medication to your hamster.
Usually the veterinarians that have experience with rodents are labeled as exotic, meaning that they will also know what to do with unusual pets if the case arises.
Misshapen or broken hamster teeth
There are some unfortunate hamsters who are born with misshapen teeth. They are misaligned since birth, but they can sometimes be corrected.
You can notice this at the pet store by looking closely at the hamster for any mouth problems. You will also be able to notice this when the hamster tries to drink a bit of water.
Or, if you haven’t noticed at the pet store and brought him home, you can still check him. Just use the scruffing method and check the teeth. There should be no gaps, or odd angles or crossed teeth.
If there are such problems, take your hamster to a veterinarian.
Now, if your hamster’s got great teeth, and suddenly broke them, that’s an issue. Breaking teeth are a sign of malnutrition, or poor health, old age, or a possible illness. It depends on each hamster, and his own medical history.
Broken teeth are particularly dangerous, since the hamster can cut himself on them. And often they’re cracked/fissured as well, which means that your hamster is in for some serious problems.
Again, it’s best if you take your hamster to the veterinarian, who will know how to align or file the hamster’s teeth, and do it humanely.
Helping your hamster with bad teeth
For any hamster with bad teeth, the diet is important. I don’t mean putting your hamster on a weight loss diet. But the food he eats has a direct and large impact on his health.
This particular mix has all the nutrients your hamster needs, including the harder, sturdier grains hamsters need to chew on in order to file down their teeth.
The whole bag will last you a couple of months or more, depending on how much you feed your hammy.
You can check the listing on Amazon here, and read the reviews as well.
Aside from the healthy food mix, you can give your hamster from your own pantry or fridge. A large amount of the foods we humans eat are also safe for hamsters, so you should check out this article on what foods are okay and not okay for hamsters to eat.
Just remember, fruits and high-fat foods should be kept to a minimum, since they can lead to an obese hamster. And that’s a whole different set of problems, which you can read about here.
And always, always, make sure your hamster has something wood-based to chew onto.
A word from Teddy
I hope you found out how to care for your teeth in this article. I know us hammies can get a bit overzealous with our chewing and biting, but we do have dental problems from time to time.
So if you want to know more about us hammies, you can check out the articles below for valuable info on how to care for us.