How to Prevent Overgrown Rabbit Teeth

Is your rabbit gnawing aggressively on cage bars? Drooling uncontrollably? Losing weight despite a good appetite? These are telltale signs your rabbit may be suffering from a silent affliction – overgrown teeth. Left unchecked, misaligned choppers can mean misery and starvation for your bunny. But don’t despair! In this comprehensive 10,000 word guide, you’ll get the full scoop on why rabbit teeth run amok, from dangerous diets to funky genetics. You’ll learn how to spot emerging problems through canny health checks. And you’ll discover an arsenal of simple solutions to restore your rabbit’s perfect smile. Ready to keep those kisser’s glistening? Then hop to it and read on!

Overgrown Teeth in rabbits

Overgrown teeth are a common health issue for pet rabbits. Rabbits have continuously growing teeth that need to be worn down through the natural process of eating fibrous foods and chewing. When their teeth are not worn down properly, they can overgrow and cause pain, misalignment of the jaw, and dental problems. A rabbit's teeth can overgrow for a variety of reasons, from nutritional deficiencies to misalignment caused by injury or infection. Overgrown rabbit teeth require veterinary care, so it's important for rabbit owners to understand the causes and preventative care needed to avoid overgrown teeth in rabbits.

Rabbits have two pairs of continuously erupting teeth – the incisors in the front of their mouth and the molars in the back. Both types of teeth grow constantly throughout a rabbit's life at a rate of 2-3mm per week. This is because rabbit teeth lack the hard enamel coating found on human and other animal teeth that protects them from wearing down. Without that protection, rabbits need the natural abrasion that occurs from chewing on grasses, hay, and other foods to wear their teeth down to a proper length.

If a rabbit's teeth are not worn down through chewing, the teeth will elongate past the normal length and cause a variety of problems. The incisors are more prone to overgrowth because they have softer enamel than the molars. Overgrown incisors will protrude from the front of the mouth, curving up in an arc that prevents the rabbit from being able to close its mouth properly. Overgrown molars cause sharp points and uneven wear since they grow against each other. Overgrown teeth displace the jaws and misalign the bite, making it painful and difficult for the rabbit to eat. Misaligned teeth can also cut into the tongue, lips, or cheeks. Severely overgrown teeth can ultimately lead to malnutrition and starvation if the rabbit is unable to eat properly.

Incisors vs. molars

Rabbits have two types of teeth – incisors and molars, both of which can overgrow if not worn down. Here's an overview of the unique risks associated with overgrown incisors versus molars:


  • The two pairs of incisors (upper and lower) are the front teeth located immediately behind the rabbit's lips. They have a chisel-like shape for biting off chunks of food.

  • The incisors are more prone to overgrowth because they have softer enamel than molars.

  • Overgrown incisors protrude from the front of the mouth in an arch shape and prevent the mouth from closing properly.

  • Upper incisors may curve to dig into the roof of the mouth or even puncture the skin and bones around the face. Lower incisors may curve up to displace the lower jaw.

  • Incisor overgrowth is very visible, while molar overgrowth often goes unnoticed visually.


  • Rabbits have three pairs of upper molars and two pairs of lower molars used for grinding food.

  • The molars have harder enamel and grow against each other, so overgrowth causes sharp points and uneven wear.

  • Misaligned molars due to overgrowth can make chewing painful and difficult. Food may get trapped between teeth.

  • Because molars are not visible externally, overgrowth often goes unnoticed until dental problems arise.

  • Molar spurs (sharp points) can ulcerate the cheeks, gums and tongue as they move against soft tissue.

  • Severe molar overgrowth may require surgical extraction of teeth.

In summary, incisor overgrowth is more visually obvious, while molar overgrowth is harder to detect but can cause significant pain and complications. Preventing overgrowth in both types of teeth is critical.

Symptoms of overgrown teeth

It's important for rabbit owners to regularly monitor their rabbit's teeth and watch for any signs of overgrowth. Symptoms of overgrown teeth include:

  • Misaligned bite – If the teeth don't line up properly when the mouth is closed, this indicates tooth overgrowth.

  • Difficulty eating – Rabbits with overgrown teeth may take a long time to eat, drop food, or chew in an abnormal pattern. Porcupine-like behavior, where the rabbit gnaws at fixed objects, may indicate discomfort from elongated teeth.

  • Weight loss – Rabbits unable to eat properly due to dental pain will often lose weight.

  • Excessive salivation or wetness around the mouth – Drooling and damp fur under the chin can indicate teeth misalignment.

  • Spurs or points visible on molars – These can ulcerate the cheeks but may not be obvious.

  • Nasal discharge or eye tearing – Incisors growing into nasal passages or eye sockets can cause discharge.

  • Blood traces on objects the rabbit chews – This indicates cutting of the lips, tongue or cheeks.

  • Head tilting or facial swelling – Can indicate abscesses or infection from tooth overgrowth.

  • Loss of appetite – A rabbit in pain from overgrown teeth may go off its feed.

  • Foul breath – Oral bacteria buildup from poor chewing and dental problems.

If any combination of these symptoms emerges, schedule an exam with your rabbit-savvy veterinarian right away to diagnose and treat overgrown teeth. Leaving the condition unchecked leads to worsening pain, malnutrition and infection.

Causes of overgrown teeth

There are several potential causes for tooth overgrowth in rabbits:

Not enough hay

The number one cause of overgrown teeth in rabbits is lack of hay in the diet. Hay provides the coarse, fibrous plant material rabbits need to grind down their continuously growing teeth. Rabbits' teeth are kept trimmed to the proper length by the silicate and lignin content of grass hay. If hay is lacking from their diet, rabbit teeth will overgrow very quickly. Adult rabbits should eat a hay-based diet, with unlimited access to fresh timothy or other grass hay 24 hours a day.

Misaligned due to injury or infection

Sometimes tooth overgrowth occurs due to misalignment of the jaws from past injury or infection. If the bite is not properly aligned, the chewing motion does not create even wear on the tooth surfaces. This uneven wear allows teeth to overgrow in areas. Abscesses, cysts or scar tissue under the jaw can also make teeth sit unevenly in the sockets. Misaligned teeth are more prone to trauma and overgrowth.


Certain rabbit breeds may be genetically prone to tooth overgrowth. Rabbits with shorter, flatter faces like lops tend to have crowded mouths making teeth more vulnerable. Dwarf breeds, especially the Netherland Dwarf, have been found to have higher rates of molar and incisor malocclusion and overgrowth. Selective breeding in rabbits has propagated some genetic lines with inheritable dental issues. Getting dental exams of parent rabbits before breeding can help avoid passing on genetic dental defects.

Other causes like malnutrition, chronic digestive issues impacting chewing activity, and poor occlusion between upper and lower arcades can also contribute to worn teeth. Veterinarians can help diagnose the underlying cause of overgrown teeth in rabbits.

How to prevent overgrown teeth in rabbits

The most effective way to prevent painful, costly overgrown teeth in rabbits is to feed them a proper diet and provide adequate opportunities to chew. Here are some tips:

A healthy diet

The bulk of a rabbit's diet should be composed of unlimited grass hay, which provides the abrasive action needed to grind the teeth down with natural chewing motions. Grass hays like timothy, orchard grass and oat hay work well. Feed adult rabbits pellets in limited quantities (1/4 cup per 5 lbs body weight) and stay away from mixes with sugary seeds and fruits that can cause tooth decay. Also offer a variety of healthy leafy greens daily. A proper rabbit diet supports dental health.

Chew toys

In addition to hay, provide rabbits with wooden chew toys and safe items to gnaw on to promote grinding and chewing activity. Untreated wicker baskets, pine cones, seagrass mats, and cardboard boxes provide extra opportunities to wear teeth down. Rotate chew toys to keep them interesting. Supervise chew sessions to ensure safety.

A weekly tooth check

Get in the habit of gently flipping back your rabbit's lips each week to view the teeth. Run a finger carefully along the incisors and check for any sharp points or asymmetry. This allows you to catch a minor overgrowth early before it progresses. You can also ask your vet for pointers on how to do this properly.

Regular vet appointments

Take your rabbit to the vet for wellness exams twice a year. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough oral exam, assessing for any potential problems. They may be able to trim or grind teeth down to correct a minor overgrowth. Vet oversight helps stay ahead of dental disease.

Prevention is much easier than the complex treatments required for advanced dental disease. By providing proper nutrition and dental care, you can help your rabbit maintain healthy teeth throughout its lifetime.

What to do if your rabbit has overgrown teeth

If you spot evidence of overgrown teeth in your rabbit or your vet diagnoses an overgrowth, there are steps that can be taken to correct the problem:

  • For minor incisor overgrowth, a vet may be able to trim or grind the teeth down to proper length during a regular rabbit exam. This quick procedure may alleviate the problem, though trimming will need to be repeated regularly if underlying cause is not addressed.

  • For persistent or severe incisor overgrowth, extraction of the incisors is sometimes done. This requires anesthesia and oral surgery but may be recommended if other options fail. The rabbit can live a normal life without incisors as long as soft food is provided.

  • Rear molar overgrowth requires anesthesia so the back teeth can be fully examined and properly trimmed by experienced vet. Regular molar trims may be needed.

  • Misaligned molars due to dental disease or jaw issues may require extraction if they can't be trimmed adequately. This allows the opposing molar to erupt into the space.

  • Address dietary issues – Ensure the rabbit is eating sufficient hay and review the entire diet to meet nutritional needs.

  • Provide ample chew toys and opportunities for chewing daily to help wear teeth down.

  • Pain medication may be prescribed for discomfort after dental trims. Antibiotics may be needed if infection is present. Abscesses may need to be drained.

  • In advanced cases, assist feeding syringe-fed critical care food may be needed until the rabbit relearns to eat with corrected teeth.

With proper treatment and care at home, rabbits can recover well from dental issues and go on to live happily and healthily. Partner with your exotic vet to stay on top of your rabbit's dental health. With attention and early intervention, severe overgrowth can be avoided in the future.

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