Well, Wikipedia definines it as -
"A malocclusion is a misalignment of teeth and/or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches"
Simply put, as a general term, it means that the teeth are not correctly aligned. This is maybe too loose a term for the condition that I have. Malocclusion, commenly termed 'Mal' by many Chinchilla owners and breeders can cover a whole spectrum of problems; from treatable to non-treatable.
The problem for us Rodents (and it is a problem for many rodent species) us that our teeth do not grow in the same way as You humans. You are born with two sets of teeth; milk teeth and adult teeth. Your milk teeth fall out and are replaced.
Us Chinchillas have only one lot of teeth to last a lifetime; and in an animal that can live over 20 years, those teeth have to do something to keep in tip top condition - after all, we mostly eat hays and grasses so we need good teeth! To cope with this, our teeth continually grow, to keep renewing themselves. What a Great idea!!
It is a great strategy but unfortunatly, this has lead to the more common dental problems in Chinchillas and similar rodents.
Want to see what our teeth look like? Look here
We'll start with the Treatable problems.
These problems occur when a Chinchilla's bite is not even. If we don't chew our food evenly, it can cause wierd things to happen to the shape of our teeth and we can develor Spurs. These are when the teeth form 'spikes' or 'hooks' ; usually on the top edge or our teeth, but they can also develop on the sides. These bits stick out into our mouths and cause us problems.
As you can imagine having the edge of your teeth form sharp bits isn't very comfy! It can cut the inside of our mouths, they can cut our tongues and sometimes, where we have been cut, abcesses can form. It's not nice to have a mouth infection!!
Further Reading on Spurs can be found here
Infection can be treated with antibiotics and the spurs themselves can be 'burred' down, removing the obstruction to our eating. We feel much better, as long as we have been prescribed adquete pain relief although sometimes it takes a while for us to be able to eat properly again.
I do suffer from spurs, usually on my upper right back molar, and at the moment I have had dentals about every 4-6 weeks to remove these.
Some chinchillas may have these as a one off, although that seems very rare and they do usually re-occur, although the time scale will vary from Chinchilla to Chinchilla.
If I was a lucky chin, that would be the only problem and I would be free to live a relatively normal life. Some Chinchillas get them when they are older, due to age - it's a naturally occuring problem in 'oldies'.
Sadly, I am not that lucky and have mostly likely developed it due to a genetic problem some where in my lines. Due to my age - I am only 3, and the fact my Mum spoils be rotten with lots of toys and a good nutrious diet it is unlikely that something in my environment has caused my problems. Other Chinchillas can develop these things through poor diet, environment or even an accident - After all, anyone who knows Chinchillas knows we have a very 'gung-ho' attitude to life and often get ourselves into trouble.
It's daytime, so currently I am asleep, as is that noisy begger who lives down stairs. Mum says I shouldn't overload you with information, So we will leave it there for today. Tomorrow I will discuss the specifics of root problems.
In the meantime, here's some reading for you ;
Chinchilla Dental Research
David Crossely's report on Tooth Management
Mum manged to get me an appointment with a local specialist, but she's on holiday until monday, so I shall see her then. She wants a second opinion on how best to manage my condtion.
TTFN, Stitch x