Everyone loves pet hamsters. They’re cute, cuddly, and invoke a sense of childlike wonder in all who gaze upon them. These tiny rodents are especially known for their energetic personalities and cute features. One unique feature specific to hamsters and their rodent brethren is that their teeth never stop growing. Unlike humans and other mammals who’s teeth grow a finite amount, a hamster’s teeth will grow throughout its entire life. In this article we will explore why this is and the implications of this unique evolutionary trait.
It’s All About the Incisors
The hamster teeth that specifically never stop growing are their incisors. Incisors are the front teeth used for gnawing, chewing, and biting. They are a hamster’s most important tool and are essential to their survival. In the wild, hamsters will use their incisors to break open seeds, nuts, and other tough foods. They will also use their incisors to dig borrows and defend themselves from predators.
A Hamster’s Unique Anatomy
The specific reason hamster teeth never stop growing has to do with their anatomy. A hamster’s incisors have a soft layer of dentin on the inside and a hard layer of enamel on the outside. As rodents use their teeth the softer dentin wears down more quickly than the harder enamel. This results in a sharp-edged tooth which can be used in a variety of ways. However, due to the constant wear and tear on the tooth it must continually grow in order to maintain its sharp edge.
What if They Stopped Growing?
If a hamster’s teeth were to suddenly stop growing, they would quickly become dull and blunt, endangering the hamster’s survival. Dental problems are actually a common issue in hamsters. If a hamster’s teeth overgrow or become misaligned it can lead to difficulty eating, infections, and in the worst case, death.
The Need to Gnaw
To prevent this from happening, a hamster will constantly find itself gnawing on hard objects to wear down its teeth. This is why it is imperative to supply your pet hamster with toys and enrichment they can chew to keep their teeth in tip top shape. In the wild, hamsters readily have seeds nuts, wood, and other hard materials at their disposal to keep their teeth in tip top condition.
Don’t Forget the Vet
It’s important to keep in mind, while these teeth are strong powerful tools that aid in a hamster’s survival, they are not invincible. Poor diet, injury, or illness can all lead to dental problems that can be painful or even life threatening. If a hamsters teeth grow too long a vet may need to trim them to keep them manageable. This is why making sure your hamster has a proper balanced diet and regular vet check-ups is so important.
Hamster teeth have evolved to never stop growing as they are constantly being used and worn down for survival. A hamster’s sharp teeth allow it to break open tough foods and defend itself against predators. Though as a pet your hamster will not face the same survival issues, it is important to stimulate them with plenty of ways to appropriately maintain their teeth. Chew toys and a healthy diet will help keep your furry friend’s teeth in perfect condition.
If you like this article, check out our blog post on why hamsters make great emotional support animals.
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