How Many Teeth Do Rabbits Have?
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Rabbits have between 26 to 28 teeth, which might be a surprising number since we can only clearly see the front set. Rabbits are famous for having buck teeth at the front of their mouths. These teeth are very important for a rabbit as they are specially adapted to their diet. Without them, a rabbit's life would be in serious jeopardy as they could not eat the type of food they need for sustenance. This includes the fibrous and abrasive materials they require to meet their nutritional needs. This is one of the reasons caring for a rabbit's teeth is such an important responsibility for guardians.
At AnimalWised, we ask how many teeth do rabbits have? We look at rabbit teeth anatomy to understand how important their dentition is for their wellbeing.
How many teeth does an adult rabbit have?
The dental formula of animals is the numerical representation of the amount, type and placement of their teeth. Each animal has their own dental formula, but even members of the same species can have differences in dentition for various reasons. These include the age of the animal, their sex and other factors. This is the same for a rabbit's dental formula.
In order to interpret a rabbit's dental formula, we need to consider the following:
- Tooth order: the formula lists the teeth in the order of incisors (I), canines (C), premolars (P) and molars (M).
- Fractions: the dental formula is read out in fractions with the numerator corresponding to the upper jawbone (maxilla) and the denominator referring to the lower jawbone (mandible).
- Total teeth: the numerator and the denominator refer to half of each jawbone since they are symmetrical (i.e. there are the same number of teeth on each side). To know how many teeth does a rabbit have in total, it is necessary to multiply the dental formula by two.
With this in mind, we can reveal how many teeth an adult rabbit has. The dental formula of these lagomorphs is 2x (I 2/1, C 0/0, P 3/2, M 2-3/3). From this formula we can deduce that:
- Maxilla: 4 incisors, 6 premolars and 4-6 molars.
- Mandible: 2 incisors, 4 premolars and 6 molars.
- Total teeth: rabbits have between 26 and 28 teeth in total, depending on the number of molars in their jaws.
The highly visible front teeth of a rabbit are their incisors. Using the dental formula, we can work out how many incisor teeth does a rabbit have. To do so, we simply have to add the numerator and the denominator corresponding to the fraction of the incisors (2 + 1) and multiply it by 2. This means rabbits have a total of 6 incisors, 4 above and 2 below.
How many teeth does a dwarf rabbit have?
The rabbits we are referring to in this article are all from the species known as the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). While they may vary greatly in terms of morphology, all domestic rabbit species are descended from this one species. Although smaller than some of the other different pet rabbit breeds, dwarf rabbits are genetically very similar.
This means that all domestic rabbit breeds follow the same dental formula, including the dwarf rabbit. For this reason, we can say the dwarf rabbit breeds have between 26 and 28 teeth.
What are a rabbit's teeth like?
As we have stated, the rabbit's mouth has three types of teeth. These are the incisors, premolars and molars. These three types of teeth are arranged as follows in the rabbit's mouth:
- Anterior part of the mouth: rabbits have 6 incisors (4 upper and 2 lower) at the front of their mouth. In the upper jaw or maxilla there are two large incisors. Behind these are two other much smaller rudimentary incisors. This is why we can often only see 4 teeth at the front of a rabbit's mouth if not looking closely. The two lower incisors fit between the upper main and rudimentary incisors.
- Diastema: between the incisors and the premolars there is an empty space called a diastema. This space is not occupied by any teeth because rabbits do not have canine teeth (fangs).
- Premolars and molars: these teeth in charge of crushing food through the chewing process. Both have a similar morphology.
Now that we know the distribution of the teeth in the rabbit's mouth, we are going to explain the characteristics of the teeth of these animals. According to their dentition, rabbits are a type of:
- Heterodont: meaning that these animals have different types of teeth. Specifically, they have incisors, premolars and molars. Rabbits do not have canine teeth. The teeth they do have are of different shapes and functions.
- Diphyodont: since they have two dentitions, one deciduous and the other permanent. Formerly it was thought that rabbits did not replace their teeth. In 1977, it was discovered that rabbits had a milk dentition, but they lose them very early, either intrauterine or a few days after birth.
- Elodont: meaning that the rabbit's teeth grow continuously (2-3mm per week) and do not develop a tooth root, but instead have an open root.
The fact that a rabbit's teeth grow continuously means they have to wear them down regularly. They do this by gnawing and chewing on objects harder than their teeth. If they do not wear down their teeth, they will grow to long and cause serious health problems. Eventually, they will die because they will no longer be able to eat. Learn more about this process with our guide to abnormal teeth growth in rabbits.
Rabbit teeth anatomy
Most mammals have teeth which are made up of external and internal parts. The visible external part is known as the crown and the part underneath the gums is the root. Rabbit teeth are a little different. This is because rabbit teeth are elodont, meaning they are root shaped. Their teeth never form trye anatomical roots. Instead, they have open roots which allows for their continuous growth of teeth.
In this way, the two parts of a rabbit's tooth are formed of the following:
- Clinical crown: the exposed part of the tooth, i.e. the one that we see externally when opening the animal's mouth.
- Reserve crown: it is the part of the tooth that is inside the gum and that emerges throughout the life of the animal.
When rabbits have a diet rich in fibrous foods which are high in silica, a balance between growth and wear of the teeth is created. This allows them to maintain good oral health.
When these animals do not receive an appropriate diet, it is common for dental overgrowths to occur that can cause serious oral lesions. To avoid this type of problem, it is essential to provide a fibrous and abrasive diet that allows proper wear of the rabbits' teeth. If teeth do grow too long, it may require a veterinary visit to trim down the teeth and help them eat again properly.
Without proper wear, it is common for rabbits to develop a tooth abscess. This can be very painful and threaten the life of the rabbit. With this in mind, it is very important to provide a proper diet for rabbits. Learn more with our guide to a French Lop's diet.
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- Fernndez, J. M., Del Campo, M., & San Roman, F. (2017). Dental anatomy and oral physiology of chewing in rabbits. Symptoms and signs associated with dental disease. Veterinary Profession, 22(87), 33-39.