Sandy's Critter City

By Sandra Conti-Todd, Mentor and consultant for the proper care of pet rats.

Those Marvelous teeth

Those marvelous teeth!

Rat teeth!! We hear so much about them, from the fact that they are supposed to be yellow to yellowish-orange  *(true*) to the horror stories of non stop growing teeth that will grow straight out of the rats head if they are not given wood to gnaw on *(not true*)

So what is the truth? Lets start with the basics:

Did you know that when a rat bites, there can be up to 10lbs of pressure in that bite? TRUE!!!

During  a rats life, rather than having baby teeth that they lose first and grow in new permanent teeth, rats only have one set of teeth during their life.

This rapid growth also keeps the rats' incisors from getting cavities: any cavity would rapidly grow out and be worn away.

Rats have incisors and molars:   Incisors are the very front teeth in mammals. In rats, these consist of  four, sharp, long front teeth, with two on top and two on the bottom. These  incisors are made for gnawing.  Rats teeth continue to grow throughout their life, know as open-rooted.
Rats rats are susceptible to developing cavaties just like humans, especially since they dont brush their teeth. There is good news though:
The good thing about having teeth that grow all the time means the rats' incisors are exempt from cavities! Due to the fast paced growth of the teeth, a cavity would grow out very quickly  and be worn away!

Rats have a total of 12 molars, six on top and six on the bottom. These molars are in the rear of the rats mouth and are also never replaced. 
Whats up with the funky yellow/orange color?
Rats are born with white teeth, but usually by the time the rat is 3 weeks old, they become slightly yellow. This is due to the prescense of an iron-containing pigment As they age, the color gets darker, with the top teeth being tinged darker than the bottom. This is totally normal and is due to  the prescense of an iron-containing pigment.


Chloe, proudly owned by Miss Gina of NJ.

Miss Chloe, the rat in the feature photo above, models classic orange tinted teeth, which indicates a healthy rat. Orange is the new white in the rat world!

Pretty, but appearing a bit fierce here is  Miss Skye, Owned by Miss Bree of Illinois

Rats DO NOT need something to gnaw on or their teeth will grow through their mouth.
Some people only seem to absorb half of what they read. When people read that rats have teeth that continue to grow throughout life, they automatically assume they need to prevent this by supplying their rat with chew toys, such as soft woods etc...
The truth is, a healthy rat will grind his teeth just by doing normal everyday things, such as eating. When a rat eats and chews, this alone helps to grind them down naturally.

Rats also have flaps of cheek tissue located on both sides of the inside of the mouths. These flaps close behind the incisors and act as a "net" to trap foreign objects and these flaps also may prevent ingesting sharp objects like jagged pieces of wood etc...that may break off during gnawing.  Some people think that rats can store food in these flaps like hamsters can in their pouches but these flaps are not the same as the pouches hamsters have.

 Note the excessive "skin" in the sides of Chloes mouth? These are the flaps I am talking about that are seen during her big huge YAWN!

Miss Chloe is owned by Miss Gina S. of Brunswick, NJ