At first glance, chinchillas may look closely related to rabbits because of their fluffy fur resembling hares, long incisors that love gnawing, long whiskers that almost extend to the ground, and their cute, bead-like eyes. However, chinchillas are closer to mice than they are to rabbits. This is because chinchillas are rodents, and they belong to the huge family Rodentia that encompasses rats, hamsters, squirrels, chipmunks, beavers, guinea pigs, and more. However, one thing that is similar between chinchillas and rabbits is the two animals’ ever-growing front teeth. Like rabbits’ and other rodents’, Chinchilla teeth keep growing throughout their lifetime and must constantly be used to keep them at a proper length.
Chinchillas are native to South America, specifically in the Andes Mountains, where they live at heights of around 16,400 feet. However, since these rodents are undeniably fluffy and cute, it comes as no surprise that they are now more popular as pets than wild animals. Chinchillas make good pets as they are very smart, pint-sized, and are fluffy. Chinchilla fur is actually the softest in the world, even 30 times smoother than human hair! Like other pet rodents, caring for chinchilla teeth needs intense attention, as their front teeth can overgrow, which can cause serious problems.
What Kind of Teeth Do Chinchillas Have?
As rodents, chinchillas have the same feature distinct to all members of the family Rodentia: long and sharp incisors that never stop growing. The upper and lower mandible of a chinchilla has two pairs of long incisors or front teeth. At the back of these incisors are premolars and molars, collectively called “cheek teeth,” following a gap called diastema.
Rodents are well-known for their constant chewing. This is where they got their name in the first place. The term “rodent” was translated from a Greek word that meant “to gnaw,” and chewing things is not just a coincidental favorite sport for all rodent species. Gnawing is vital for them to help keep their incisors at a reasonable length. As their incisors keep growing, they need to wear them down by continuously chewing on things constantly. Consider human fingernails, which must be cut regularly to keep them healthy. The same goes for rodent and chinchilla teeth.
Chinchillas are rodents, which means they share similar dentitions to other rodent species. The chinchilla’s teeth are open-rooted, allowing them to grow throughout their lives continuously. A chinchilla’s set of incisors grows for an average of 2 to 3 inches every year. Overgrown chinchilla teeth can cause serious dental conditions, which is why pet chinchillas must keep their gnawing rate even in captivity.
How Many Teeth Do Chinchillas Have?
Chinchillas, like most rodents, have a total of 20 teeth that include 4 incisors, 4 premolars, and 12 molars. They have two pairs of incisors protruding both from the upper and lower mandible. Since chinchillas lack canine teeth, these front incisors are followed by a huge gap called a diastema. Chinchillas are no carnivores, so they are in no need of sharp canine teeth. This gap helps chinchillas in grinding their food more thoroughly. Four sets of premolars follow the diastema in the upper and lower jaw and six sets of molars that help them further chew their food.
Chinchilla’s teeth range from 6 to 8 millimeters long. The typical formula for a chinchilla dentition is 2(Incisors 1/1, Canines 0/0, Premolars 1/1, Molars 3/3) = 20. The molars at the rear of their mouth may seem short, but they have open roots, too, and can extend to excessive lengths.
What Do Chinchillas Use Their Teeth For?
Chinchillas are herbivores, and their diet mainly includes plant material and vegetation. Chinchillas use their cheek teeth in grinding, crushing, and juicing their food, such as hay, grass, seeds, bark, leaves, and twigs in this kind of diet. However, their front incisors are used to cut rough shrubbery and vegetation in their natural habitat. When in captivity, chinchillas still need to constantly gnaw on elm, maple, apple, birchwood, tree bark, and anything else that they find chewable to help them wear away their front teeth and keep them at a proper length.
Do Chinchillas Have Baby Teeth?
Chinchillas are monophyodonts, which means they only grow one set of teeth throughout their lifetime. Baby chinchillas are born with a set of teeth that continue to grow as they age and wear away as they use them. These same sets of teeth they were born with will be the same set of teeth they will be stuck with for the rest of their lives. That is why dental care for chinchillas is very important, as their teeth are susceptible to wear and several dental problems.
For chinchillas in captivity, there are excellent chewing materials that you can offer so they can keep up with their ever-growing incisors. Even inside cages, chinchillas still need to chew on the same type of abrasive items they are used to in the wild. Pumice stones and chew blocks are two excellent choices as these also keep chinchilla teeth healthy. Chinchillas can chew on other materials, including apple, pear, birchwood, orange, ash, elm, and peach.
Common Dental Problems
Chinchillas have hypsodont teeth, which extend beyond the gums and often need tooth trims. If a chinchilla’s teeth overgrow, they bend and stick out between the rodent’s lips. These overgrown front teeth can get stuck between things or extend beyond the roof of their mouth. This overgrowth hinders proper feeding, and as the molars overgrow too, their crowns might develop sharp edges that may cause sores inside the chinchilla’s gums and cheeks.
Apart from feeding your pet chinchilla with items they can gnaw on, there are other methods in keeping their teeth at a proper length as well, such as incisor and molar tooth trimming.
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