How To Clean Hedgehog Teeth (And Other Questions About Hedgehog Teeth)

Adult hedgehogs have between 36 and 44 permanent teeth, but they’re born without any at all. Juvenile hedgehogs start growing a full set of baby teeth by the time they’re about three weeks old, and their baby teeth finish growing in by the time they’re nine weeks old. These little teeth don’t stick around long though; hedgehogs start growing their permanent adult teeth almost as soon as they get their baby teeth.

Hedgehogs’ baby teeth fall out when their permanent teeth grow in (just like humans!), but you’d have to be pretty perceptive to even notice when they do. Turns out hedgehog baby teeth are so tiny that the little hogs usually swallow them without even noticing.

Grown-Up Teeth

Adult hedgehogs usually have between 36 and 44 permanent teeth that come in all shapes and sizes.

Hedgehogs have sharp incisors and canines upfront for grabbing and biting into tasty treats, and they have a bunch of premolars and molars in the back for crunching and chewing—perfect for their omnivorous diet of bugs, frogs, berries, mushrooms, and whatever else they can get their paws on.

Spiky Backs, Flat Teeth

You might think hedgehogs’ teeth would be sharp and spiky like their spines, but that’s not really the case. Hedgehogs aren’t rodents like mice or rats, so they don’t have sharp teeth designed for gnawing through bark or grass, and they aren’t predators either, so they don’t have fangs or other teeth designed for killing prey.

In fact, hedgehog teeth are actually quite flat, so they’re better suited for chewing on snails and melons than sinking into your fingers.

So while hedgehogs can bite you—like all animals—if they’re tired of if they want you to put them down (or if they think your hand lotion smells delicious and want a taste), their bites are usually fairly gentle. Your hog’s nibbles probably won’t break the skin or really even hurt very much unless it’s very frightened or upset.

DIY Dentistry For Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs’ permanent teeth are just that: permanent. Your hedgehog’s baby teeth are supposed to fall out, but there aren’t any other teeth waiting to replace lost permanent teeth, so it’s important that you pay attention to your hog’s oral health.

Just like humans, regular brushing is key to keeping your hedgehog’s teeth strong and healthy. All you have to do is grab a Q-tip, wet it with some warm water, and gently rub all your hedgehog’s teeth. Pay special attention to your hog’s back molars and the sides of its teeth, and make sure to reward it with a treat for being so compliant after you’re finished.

Don’t freak out if your hog’s gums start to bleed a little bit; that just means they haven’t been brushed much and aren’t used to it. If there’s a lot of blood, on the other hand, it’s important that you get your hog to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The same goes for if you can see the roots of your hedgehog’s teeth.

There’s a limit to what you can do for your hog’s teeth on your own. If, for instance, you see a lot of black or brown stuff on your hedgehog’s teeth, you’re probably going to have to get your hog’s teeth professionally cleaned.

Professional Help

The black and brown stuff that you might see on your hedgehog’s teeth is plaque and tartar—a bunch of old food particles and bacterial buildup—and it’s the same stuff your dental hygienist scrapes off your teeth when you go in for a cleaning. You can try to scrape some of it off your hedgehog’s teeth with your fingernails, but it’ll probably be hard to gently scrape their teeth without your hog getting upset and squirmy.

Your Veterinarian’s Got it Covered

Your best bet will be to bring your hog in for a professional cleaning. Your veterinarian will use the same procedure for cleaning the teeth of dogs and cats: They’ll give your hedgehog anesthesia to prevent it from moving around during the procedure, then your vet will take x-rays, clean your hog’s teeth with an ultrasonic scaler or something similar, and return your hedgehog with clean, polished teeth.

Check the Chompers

While you might not always know if your hedgehog has a dental issue, there are a few telltale signs that something is wrong.

If your hedgehog’s mouth hurts, it might:

  • Grind or click its teeth
  • Have difficulty chewing
  • Change its chewing pattern
  • Stop chewing altogether

Keep an eye (and nose) out for these signs that something is very wrong:

  • Swollen jaw, gums, or lips
  • Tender jaw, gums, or lips
  • Frequently rubbing jaw on the ground or with paws
  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Weight loss

All of these signs can indicate your hedgehog has a serious issue and needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. It might mean your hedgehog has a painful chipped tooth, an infection or an abscess, or even symptoms of cancer.

So make sure you pay brush regularly, pay attention to your hedgehog’s teeth, and bring it in for regular checkups.

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