Dental problems are not unusual in rabbits and they are certainly the most common problem in my
household. Molar spurs and other dental problems are among the more common underlying causes of GI
stasis, so it is important to recognize symptoms as early as possible. As with most ailments, early
identification and treatment of minor dental problems is the key to preventing more serious problems.
Your Rabbit’s Teeth
A basic understanding of your rabbit’s dental structure is the first step in understanding the variety of
dental problems that rabbits can have. Rabbits shed their fetal teeth around the time they are born and
develop their 28 permanent teeth during the first five weeks after birth. These teeth are made up of:
• Six incisors (front teeth): two large upper and two large lower incisors, plus two much smaller
“peg” teeth that are often completely hidden behind the larger upper incisors
• Ten premolars: six upper and four lower
• Twelve molars: six upper and six lower
Premolars and molars are indistinguishable from each other. You may hear them referred to collectively
as “cheek” teeth or simply as “molars.” A rabbit’s lower jaw (mandible) is narrower than the maxilla
(upper jaw) and when the jaws are closed, the lower cheek teeth lie inside the upper ones. There is a
noticeable gap, called the diastema, between the incisors and the premolars. This gap may be large
enough for you to slip your little finger between without feeling teeth (not something I recommend trying
with most rabbits).
We’re all familiar with a rabbit’s characteristic incisors, but many rabbit caretakers are not consciously
aware that rabbits have cheek teeth until they have a rabbit with dental problems. Incisors and cheek teeth
serve two distinct functions: Incisors are used to grip, nip, and slice food; cheek teeth are used to crush
and grind food using a relatively horizontal motion when compared with human chewing.
Figure 1: Normal Rabbit Teeth (courtesy Sari Kanfer, DVM a