Is oral care essential for your bearded dragon?
How do owners take care of their bearded dragon’s teeth?
What could happen if you don’t care for your beardie’s teeth and gums?
As devoted reptile owners, we all want the best for our pet lizards.
Knowing how to properly care for them is key to having a happy and healthy pet.
This article will discuss bearded dragon dental anatomy, the importance of dental care, possible health risks associated with neglecting to care for your beardie’s teeth, as well as preventative and healing methods to deal with your pet’s dental issues.
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Bearded Dragon Teeth Care
Caring for your bearded dragon’s teeth is extremely important because, unlike many other reptiles, these lizards only develop one set of teeth. If their oral hygiene is neglected, various health issues may arise.
Similarly to humans, caring for bearded dragons’ teeth is essential to their health.
Their dental care is of the utmost importance because these reptiles are monophyodonts and have acrodont dentition.
Monophyodont refers to species with one set of teeth which will not be replaced or regrow at any stage of life.
Since bearded dragons are monophyodonts, they will have the same teeth from birth to death.
Acrodont refers to the anatomical placement of teeth meaning they lack tooth sockets and are instead fused to the jaw bone itself.
Dentition simply refers to the arrangement of teeth in a species or individual.
So, acrodont dentition refers to the anatomical arrangement of the single set of teeth found in bearded dragons.
The teeth are fused to the maxilla and the mandible.
The maxillary bone makes up a large part of the skull and contains the upper jaw. Mandibular bones refer to animals’ lower jaws.
The mandible sits beneath the maxilla and is the mobile part of the jaw.
The tissue connecting these acrodont teeth to the jawbones is fragile and makes these bones and teeth susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
The other more common classification of tooth arrangement in reptiles is pleurodont dentition.
Pleurodont teeth have longer roots than acrodont teeth and are also fused to the jaw bone.
Pleurodont teeth are more regularly replaced, so oral complications and dental disease are not common in these species.
Along with monophyodont dentition, there are two other occurrences of dental regeneration.
These are known as diphyodont dentition and polyphyodont dentition.
Diphodonts are species having two sets of teeth throughout life.
As humans, we are diphyodont, getting our first set of teeth as babies and our second set of teeth throughout adolescence.
Polyphyodonts are species whose teeth are continually replaced throughout their lives, including geckos and crocodiles.
Since polyphyodonts’ teeth are constantly regrown and replaced, their dental care is not nearly as pertinent as species who only develop one or two sets of teeth throughout their lives.
Since we now know and understand bearded dragons are monophyodonts and have acrodont dentition, it is easy to see why caring for their teeth is essential.
These animals only get one set of teeth, and the teeth they have are highly susceptible to oral diseases if they are neglected.
Health Risks Associated With Bearded Dragon Oral Care
One of the leading health risks associated with bearded dragon oral care is periodontal disease.
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a severe infection of the gums, damaging the soft tissue and may potentially destroy the jawbones.
Periodontal disease is a severe condition.
When left untreated, periodontitis will lead to various other health issues, including gingival recession, bone infections, calculus buildup, abscesses, and tooth decay.
These are severe conditions and can ultimately be life-threatening.
There are several symptoms and warning signs of periodontal disease, including:
- Oral inflammation
- Receding gumlines
- Bone exposure
- Built-up plaque
- Black teeth
- Brown teeth
- Loss of appetite
Bearded dragons are predisposed to periodontal disease due to their acrodont dentition.
An acrodont tooth is weakly fused to the jaw bone without roots to hold it in place.
Because of the tooth’s positioning and the gums around it, the likelihood of an acrodont tooth becoming weak or infected is very high.
If you notice your lizards have gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), discolored teeth, are suffering from tooth loss, or a buildup of tartar, you may want to take them in for an oral examination.
Periodontitis is a painful condition often caused by poor diet, high-stress levels, and a general lack of oral care.
Feeding your beardie the wrong diet is dangerous.
If your lizard is consuming too many soft foods such as soft-bodied insects and an excess of sugary foods like fruits, you may be inadvertently causing dental and gum disease.
Fruits your pet can eat vary, check out our post about if bearded dragons can eat cranberries.
A diet lacking in the essential mineral calcium is also a cause for periodontitis and dental disease.
Calcium is vital for all reptiles, and a diet lacking in this nutrient will most certainly lead to health issues.
High-stress levels are also attributed to possible dental problems.
If your beardie is displaying stress in methods such as head banging or glass scaling, it may unintentionally damage its teeth.
Failing to clean your pet lizard’s teeth regularly will lead to a buildup of plaque, which in turn leads to tartar and extreme calculus buildup.
Gingival recession is the receding of the gumline.
This condition is generally a result of untreated periodontitis.
If your bearded dragon is suffering from sensitive or loose teeth along with any of the previously mentioned symptoms of periodontitis, you may want to have it checked for gingival recession.
Gingival recession is a serious condition which is often very painful in its advanced stages.
If the gums recede too much, the nerves and jawbones will become exposed.
This puts your pet at greater risk for infections in their jawbones.
Losing teeth and having exposed nerves in the mouth will more than likely cause your beardie to have a loss of appetite.
Depending on the severity of the condition, it may even be painful to drink water.
Care and advice from your veterinarian is the best way to combat this recession.
Calculus deposition is ultimately the result of plaque buildup.
Plaque is the sticky film forming on the surface of teeth containing bacteria.
Easily remove plaque at home, but the longer it is left on the teeth’ surface, the more difficult it is, and the likelihood of needing professional assistance increases.
An easy and recommended way of removing plaque from your bearded dragon’s teeth is by soaking a cotton ball in a diluted chlorhexidine solution.
This solution is safe to use and will help prevent bacterial growth in your pet’s mouth.
Simply take the cotton ball and rub it along the teeth and gum line.
When plaque hardens onto the surface of the teeth, it is referred to as tartar.
Tartar buildup is more difficult to remove and is a sign of poor oral hygiene.
When the tartar buildup becomes advanced, it is referred to as calculus deposition.
Calculus deposition is damaging to the teeth and gums and is often hard to remove.
In severe cases, lizards experiencing this condition will need to be placed under general anesthesia.
A veterinary medical professional will remove as much calculus as possible from the teeth to alleviate the condition.
Abscesses and Tooth Decay
Neglecting your bearded dragon and allowing these oral diseases to progress will ultimately lead to abscesses and tooth decay.
Abscesses may occur at the tooth base when dental diseases such as rotting teeth or gum disease are left untreated.
These abscesses are very painful and will need to be treated by a medical professional.
On occasion, the tooth suffering from the abscess will need to be removed.
This is never a good scenario, especially in an animal who will never regrow a new set of teeth.
Bearded Dragon Teeth Problem Preventative Methods
The best way to deal with dental disease in your bearded dragon is to avoid it altogether by taking preventative measures.
Don’t wait until your beardie is sick or in pain to care for their teeth.
Be aware of what a healthy diet looks like for a bearded dragon.
You want to be sure you are not feeding it too many foods damaging to its teeth.
Soft food and foods high in sugars are bad for your beardie’s teeth when fed in excess.
Of course, fruits and soft-bodied insects are both safe to feed your pet. However, you need to do so in moderation and be aware of your feeding patterns.
Another critical aspect to be aware of is your bearded dragon’s calcium intake and calcium absorption.
Lack of essential vitamins and minerals will lead to dangerous health conditions, including dental disease.
Be aware of your pet’s stress levels and do everything in your power to keep them in a stress-free environment.
When bearded dragons are stressed, they are more likely to accidentally injure themselves.
For example, if your beardie is stressed in its tank, it may express this stress through headbanging, meaning it is banging its head against the glass tank.
Stressed beardies may also scale their tank walls and fall in the process.
Since their teeth are so delicate, any falls or trauma are dangerous to their oral health.
The final way you are able to prevent dental disease in your pet is by being attentive and cleaning their teeth regularly.
At a minimum, you should be cleaning your bearded dragon’s teeth once per week.
Feeding your beardie a hard, crunchy food is a common way owners opt to clean their teeth.
This may not sound like it will do much, but harder foods such as crunchy vegetables or hard-shelled insects will help remove food debris and plaque buildup.
As stated in a previous section, diluting chlorhexidine with water and rubbing it on your pet lizard’s teeth and gums will help remove and prevent harmful bacteria buildup.
Applying this solution is easily done with a cotton ball or cotton swab.
The process will only take a few minutes of your time and is an excellent healthy practice to start the week you bring your reptilian friend home.
If you notice your pet bearded dragon has symptoms of dental diseases such as periodontal disease or gingival recession, you may be able to treat it at home.
When caught in the early stages, these conditions are treatable, and the damage done is kept to a minimum.
Even though at-home remedies and practicing preventative methods may help alleviate dental disease, if you notice even the slightest sign of an oral health issue, it is best to take your pet to the vet to obtain a professional opinion.
If dental diseases such as periodontitis, gingivitis, and plaque buildup are in their earliest stages, your vet will most likely clean your beardie’s teeth and show you how to do the same at home.
When dental diseases are present, cleaning of teeth should increase from once or twice per week to every day or every other day.
If the stages of dental disease are moderate or advanced, more extreme steps will need to be taken.
In some cases, antibiotics are prescribed for the lizard.
In cases where stages of oral conditions are advanced, your veterinarian may need to put your pet under a local anesthetic to clean their teeth more in-depth.
In the worst cases where your beardie’s teeth are too damaged to save, they may need to be pulled to prevent rotting in other teeth.
Severe cases will need to be monitored for life and may also lead to other health conditions outside of the mouth.
Bearded dragons have one set of teeth for the entirety of their lives.
Because of the dentition of the teeth, these animals are predisposed to gum disease and dental issues.
It is of the utmost importance to understand how to care for your bearded dragon to ensure it has a long and happy life.
Dental disease is preventable by feeding your beardie enough calcium, limiting soft and sugary foods, reducing stress as much as possible, and cleaning their teeth once or twice per week.