Thread: Malocclusion
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Old 05-04-2009, 06:46 AM United States
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tunes tunes is offline
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 9,780
Chinchillas: 300'
Default Malocclusion

I have heard a lot of talk about maloclusion being not only heriditary but also environmental. I understand the heriditary part but how is it environmental? I know they say due to diet but how does this cause their teeth to maloclude and how can one tell the difference between the two?
Chinchillas are hypsodonts, which means that they have continuously growing incisors and molars. The only way they can wear down their teeth is by the act of chewing on very coarse materials. The natural food of the now-presumed extinct wild chinchillas included very coarse vegetation as well as bark, small rocks, and anything else they could find living in the side of a mountain. Their teeth needed to grow at a rate equal to the wear created by this diet. We cannot possibly hope to mimic their natural environment, so therefore, their teeth grow at a faster rate than the food provided can wear the crowns down. The elongation of the crowns of the teeth can only go to a certain point. When the crowns of the upper arcades meet the crowns of the lower arcades, then the pressure exerted actually causes the roots to start to grow backwards. This elongation of the roots of the teeth disturbs bone remodeling in the upper and lower jaws and hence you get malocclusion. (I hope this makes sense!)

So, environmentally speaking, if we do not TRY to provide the best diet possible to wear down the crowns of the teeth, then we are creating dental disease in our chins.

There are always exceptions to the rule. I have seen chins that have been fed nothing but crap their whole lives and have great teeth and I have seen chins on the perfect diet and have had bad teeth. This is where I think genetics has a role. However, I also think that personality of the chin itself plays a role, too. If you have a chin that has free choice pellets and free choice hay, but is determined to gorge on pellets, then most likely that chin will end up with dental disease sooner than one that would choose the hay over the pellets.

In the end, I think all chinchillas eventually will end up with some type of dental disease if they don't pass away from something else first. I think the 3 factors here each play their own part in determining when this will happen. Right now, there is no way to tell which one or two or three are the cause of a chinchilla's malocclusion. Dr. David Crossley has worked on this in his research. Here is a link to an abstract that may help explain better:

Angie Keffer, VMD

If you have followup questions, please address them to me, and I will forward them to Angie.
Never argue with idiots. They will drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.