The Tooth Is Out There: Treating And Caring For A Rabbit With A Broken Incisor

Your rabbit's prominent incisors may be the most distinctive part of his or her anatomy, but they are also one of the most important -- if these teeth become damaged, rabbits can find biting and chewing the tough, fibrous vegetables and feeds they eat very difficult, leading to various health problems and even malnutrition. As such, if your rabbit suffers a damaged or broken incisor as a result of illness or injury, you should seek treatment from a qualified veterinary dentist as quickly as possible. With prompt treatment and proper care, a rabbit can lead a long and healthy life in spite of their dental misfortune, even if the incisor must be extracted entirely.

How can a rabbit's incisors become broken?

A rabbit's incisors are remarkably strong and durable, but a number of problems and mishaps can lead to them becoming damaged, chipped or even broken:

  • Dental illnesses: Rabbits are prone to gum disease and abscesses in the same way as humans if their dental hygiene is not up to scratch or their health is failing. If your rabbit is sporting a broken incisor, check their gums for abscesses, swelling and other signs of illness which may have weakened the tooth; if these signs are present, seek immediate medical attention to prevent infection and worsening illness.
  • Falls: Rabbits don't fall with the grace and elegance of cats, and a rabbit falling from a high place will often land face first and break one or more of its incisors. Try to avoid allowing your rabbit onto tables and other high places they can fall from, and seek immediate veterinary aid if a rabbit breaks a tooth in a fall, particularly if the mouth is bleeding.
  • Entanglement: Rabbit incisors grow constantly, and your rabbit will routinely chew and gnaw on hard objects and foods to wear them down. However, gnawing on dangerous or unsuitable objects, such as the wires of a hutch, can cause your rabbit to become entangled, potentially breaking or loosening its teeth as it pulls away. Give your rabbits a ready supply of safe objects for chewing to avoid this fate.

How can veterinary dentists treat a broken incisor in my rabbit?

Upon taking your stricken rabbit for animal dentistry, the first thing the vet will do is examine the rabbit's tooth (as well as the rest of the mouth) to assess the scale of the damage. X-rays and other imaging equipment may be used. The purpose of this inspection is not just to assess the state of the damaged tooth, but to check for hidden damage, either to the other teeth or to the bones of the jaw itself. 

If signs of more extensive damage are not present, the vet will then go to work on treating the damaged tooth. If the tooth has only suffered superficial damage, or the base and root of the tooth remain healthy, it may be possible to leave the damaged tooth in place. Your vet will use dental equipment such as drills and burrs to shape the remaining tooth -- this helps prevent jagged edges of a broken tooth from damaging the lips and tongue -- and also ensures that the tooth remains straight and true as it continues to grow.

However, if the tooth is badly damaged or has become misaligned as a result of impact damage, it may be more prudent to remove the tooth entirely. If a tooth misaligned by damage remains in the mouth, it will continue to grow at its new incorrect angle, a lifelong problem which requires frequent medical attention and tooth shaping, so extraction can be less stressful (and expensive) for both you and your rabbit. Tooth extraction will generally be carried out under anaesthesia, and your rabbit should be able to return home on the day of the operation.

Once the rabbit has completed its ordeal, your vet will give you advice and supplies for proper aftercare of your stricken pet. Most rabbits recover from tooth extraction very quickly and should be feeding again within a matter of hours; however, you should monitor your pet closely for prolonged loss of appetite -- in some cases, a rabbit's digestive system will slow or stop in response to injury, a dangerous condition that requires immediate attention.