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Chinchilla Dental Disease Research Project
Fact Sheet

One of the most common clinical problems encountered in the pet chinchilla is dental disease. This takes many forms (as described in the abstract on dental disease in chinchillas in the UK) causing signs varying from weight loss, tear overflow and changed behaviour to gross jaw deformity, debility and death. Although dental disease is often described as "malocclusion" this is inappropriate as the malocclusions seen in most cases are secondary to tooth elongation, not the primary problem.

In all but an occasional case the problems revolves around a mismatch between tooth growth and eruption. All the chinchilla's teeth are continuously growing, not just the incisors. When there is insufficient attrition (tooth wear from chewing) eruption slows down and may even stop, but the teeth continue to grow. The rate of growth is influenced by physical forces on the crowns of the teeth and by the level of adrenal activity induced by stress. The pattern of disease similar to that seen in domestic rabbits with:

  • Crown and root elongation
  • Caries
  • Odontoclastic resorptive lesions
  • Dental dysplasia (abnormalities of tooth formation)
  • Tooth deformity
  • Altered eruption
  • Periodontal disease

Whilst genetics is certainly a factor to consider in the etiology of some dental diseases, including malocclusions in species without continuously growing teeth, it appears to be a minor factor in chinchillas. No studies have so far demonstrated a pattern of disease suggesting that dental disease in chinchillas is a primary hereditary problem.

[ x-ray1 ]

This x-ray shows crown and root elongation with obvious root deformity in a chinchilla.

David Crossley, a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in animal dentistry is leading the chinchilla dental disease research project at the University of Manchester (UK). He has studied dental disease for any years and has been involved in teaching rabbit and rodent dentistry to other veterinary surgeons since 1993 (lecturing in the UK, throughout Europe, South Africa and the USA).

The chinchilla dental disease research project hopes to determine the different patterns of disease by continuing to study clinical cases. By determining what is going on during the disease process, both at the macroscopic and microscopic levels, it should be possible to find more effective treatments, and eventually develop methods for prevention of at least some of the problems.

The form of the diet and environmental stress appear to be major factors, so current investigations are looking into disease incidence and the foods given to different groups of animals. Visit the Chinchilla Dental Disease Research Project web site for more information and to have a look at the research questionnaire.

[ x-ray2 ]

This chinchilla is 'clinically' normal .

The chinchilla dental disease research project is a clinical research project. Data are collected from healthy and affected animals during routine examination, treatments and post-mortem examinations. Unlike experimental research the conditions under which the animals are kept varies considerably making interpretation of the findings more difficult. to counter this a large number of specimens are required.

[ elongated teeth ]

This chinchilla has grossly elongated teeth .

Preparation of skulls to show the problems is quire straightforward and can be done at home: method.

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This page was last updated on 20-Feb-2019 .