Are you supposed to brush your rat's teeth? What kind of dental care do they require, exactly? All of these are good questions and I will share the answers to these and more in this post.
Dental Care for Pet Rats
First of all, let's talk about your pet rat's teeth in general. No, you don't have to brush your rat's teeth. Doing so would probably prove to be most challenging anyways.
Most people are surprised to learn that the front incisors of a rat never stop growing. They will continue to grow throughout their lifetime. It's similar to how your nails and hair continue to grow longer throughout your life.
Because a rat's teeth never stop growing, caring for them is a little different. In order to keep a pet rat's teeth from growing too long, they need to chew on things to grind them down regularly. What kind of things?
For one, the food that rats eat is important to grinding down their incisors. Lab blocks for rats are hard and and good for their teeth. Also, giving a hard dog biscuit every now and then can be helpful.
Pet rats should also be provided with some sort of chew toy. Usually, the toys are made from wood and/or pumice. My rats use a Pumice and Wood toy for small pets. It hangs on the side of their cage so that it does not get dirty on the ground of the cage. It's about time for a new one of these toys as you can probably tell, but it's lasted us for many months so far.
Rats also love chewing on cardboard boxes. Placing a couple of cardboard boxes in your rat's cage will not only provide them with lots of places to hide, sleep, and play but will also help with their desire to chew. Plus, they'll have a fun time making little nests with the bits of cardboard.
Dental Health Concerns for Pet Rats
Sometimes, if a rat is not provided with enough items to chew their incisors will grow too long. This can cause a number of health problems including oral trauma, pain, and refusal to eat resulting in weight loss. It's possible that the bottom incisors could grow into the nasal cavity.
When this happens, the incisors need to be trimmed back. I highly recommend taking your rat to the vet to have this procedure done. While it is a simple procedure, you are going to want someone who knows what they are doing for it. If done incorrectly, it can shatter the teeth and cause more harm than good.
For an incisor trim, the vet will most likely use a pair of small nail trimmers and cut the teeth back to the appropriate length. Most rats don't need to be anesthetized for this procedure and it's very quick.
For rats who were born with a malocclusion or poorly aligned incisors, having regular teeth trims is going to be necessary throughout their life. Otherwise, for a normal healthy rat malocclusion should not be an issue and teeth trims should not be needed.
So in a nutshell, provide your rat with plenty of healthy things to chew on to maintain healthy teeth. If you are concerned that your rat's teeth are too long, ask a veterinarian! They can take a look and determine whether or not an incisor trim is necessary.