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Small mammal

Oral cavity

The very small oral commissure tends to preclude thorough examination of the cheek teeth in small herbivores. As a result, malocclusion tends to proceed undetected until it reaches a point severe enough to elicit overt clinical signs. The rigid endoscope is ideally suited to examine the oral cavity in these small mammals, and offers considerable advantages over the use of an otoscope (Taylor and Murray, 1999). With the patient appropriately anesthetized, the mouth may be held open. It is suggested that small mammals be fasted for 1-4 hours to enhance visualization, as food material is often retained in the oral cavity after eating, especially in guinea pigs. The author prefers to employ both a cheek gag and a self-retaining mouth gag (Spectrum Surgical Supply, Stow, Ohio, 330-686-4550). The telescope within a protective sheath may then be inserted into the oral cavity for a detailed examination. The upper arcades may be examined with the endoscope in its normal position. In order to examine the lower arcades, the endoscopist can take advantage of the 30 offset of the telescope. By rotating the telescope 180 (if a camera is in use, it should NOT be rotated, just the telescope) the lower teeth are well visualized.

Every tooth should be evaluated, including lingual, buccal, and occlusal aspects. Appropriately sized and curved dental probes may be used to palpate each tooth attempting to elicit movement or other evidence of tooth pathology. Additionally, the clinician should pay particular attention to the gingiva. Chinchillas often present with a sub-gingival point on the buccal aspect of the first upper pre-molar as the sole cause of "slobbers". The most commonly encountered malocclusions involve overgrowth to the lingual aspect on the lower arcades and overgrowth to the buccal side on upper teeth. If left untreated, severe tongue injury and laceration may occur. In guinea pigs, it is not uncommon for the mandibular teeth to actually bridge and entrap the tongue.

Once identified the malocclusion should be trimmed with either a motorized dental hand piece or ronguers. When utilizing the latter, the clinician must take exceptional care to avoid fracturing the tooth. For that reason, the dental hand piece is preferred. For obvious reasons, it is recommended that the telescope be removed (or further protected) during the trimming process. It should then be re-inserted to evaluate the teeth following reduction of the malocclusion.

General endoscopic view of the oral cavity of a rabbit.
General endoscopic view of the oral cavity of a rabbit.


Close-up of dental spurs in a rabbit with molar malocclusion.
Close-up of dental spurs in a rabbit with molar malocclusion.


Endoscopic view of maloccluded molars in a rabbit being surgically reduced using a dental burr.
Endoscopic view of maloccluded molars in a rabbit being surgically reduced using a dental burr.

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