Oral health is a key part of your dragon’s overall wellbeing. In fact, if their oral health is neglected, some serious health problems can occur. So it’s important to know a little bit about bearded dragon teeth and how to take care of them.
Do Bearded Dragons Have Teeth?
Yes. Bearded dragons have teeth. In fact, they are born with teeth. They enter the world ready to chomp on veggies and insects.
Bearded dragons have what’s called “acrodont dentition.” This means that their teeth are attached to their jaw bones, rather than sitting in sockets along the jaw.
Because of this, bearded dragons don’t naturally lose their teeth and then grow adult ones like people and mammals do. Their teeth start out super sharp and get worn down as they grow and chomp on crunchy veggies and insects like Dubia roaches and crickets.
However, it is possible for bearded dragons to lose their teeth in other ways that aren’t so natural, due to a variety of reasons. These include:
- Dietary issues (too many soft foods, not enough calcium)
- Poor husbandry (not enough time basking, improper temperatures)
- Periodontal disease such as gingivitis, plaque and calculus buildup, and infections
- Extreme stress
- Fighting (which is likely to happen if you’ve got two bearded dragons in the same terrarium - especially males)
How Many Teeth Do Bearded Dragons Have?
Bearded dragons have up to 80 teeth! There are 34 to 40 teeth on the top and 34 to 40 teeth on the bottom. That’s more than twice the amount of teeth that people have. Chew on that!
Do You Have to Brush Your Bearded Dragon’s Teeth?
The answer: it depends! If your dragon is healthy overall (including good oral and dental health), you don’t need to clean her teeth regularly. But if your dragon has dental problems, your vet may recommend cleanings as part of the treatment plan.
Why is this? It’s not like bearded dragons are born with a little toothbrush to use after crunching on some crickets, so how do their teeth get clean?
According to an article published by Improve Veterinary Practice:
“Brushing teeth is recommended for dogs and cats to assist with dental health, but this is not true for bearded dragons. This is because dietary insects with a hard exoskeleton, such as Dubia roaches, act as nutrition and dental hygiene/cleaning simultaneously. It is commonly believed that feeding soft-bodied insects, such as waxworms, will not have such a positive effect and will contribute to periodontal disease over time.”
How to Clean Your Bearded Dragon’s Teeth
If your vet has recommended that you clean your dragon’s teeth, this probably goes without saying, but you won’t be using toothpaste or a toothbrush. You can use a cotton swab, and your vet will recommend using water or a cleansing solution.
We recommend asking your vet to show you how to brush your dragon's teeth, but here are a few pointers to keep in mind as well:
- Wait until your dragon is calm, or you may be bitten.
- Depending on the temperament and size of your dragon, you may need a helper - one of you can hold your dragon and gently open their mouth, and the other can clean the teeth.
- Follow guidelines for handling your dragon: make sure you are in their line of sight when you pick them up so they don’t perceive you as a predator; support your dragon’s belly on your hand. Use calm movements and don’t jerk your dragon around.
- To open your dragon’s mouth, gently place your thumb and index finger over each of their eyes. Don’t poke them in the eye; just gently place your fingers over the eyes and your dragon will automatically open his mouth. This is a trick that veterinarians sometimes use during checkups.
Why It’s So Important to Keep Your Bearded Dragon’s Teeth Healthy
Dental problems are fairly common among bearded dragons, but they are preventable. It is really important to focus on prevention and keep your dragon’s teeth healthy—because once they get unhealthy, it can be really difficult to reverse the damage.
As the article from Improve Veterinary Practice explains, dental issues in bearded dragons can become really serious, really fast, primarily because the jaw can become infected:
“The gums attach to the lower lingual and buccal aspects of the jaw bones, which means a higher risk of bacterial colonisation. Infection can, therefore, track from the teeth into the jaw bones more easily.”
This is why, at the first sign of dental problems, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. Dental issues with people may not be life-threatening, but for bearded dragons, they can be.
Common Problems with Bearded Dragons’ Teeth
There are a variety of dental diseases and problems that can affect bearded dragons, and all of them can become very serious if left untreated. In some cases surgery or other invasive procedures may be required, which can be costly.
Common dental diseases include:
- Periodontal disease (a gum infection that can move into the jawbone)
- Gingivitis (a mild gum disease causing swollen, bleeding gums that can worsen if left untreated)
- Osteomyelitis (bacterial infection that can cause tooth loss)
- Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis (a gum or jawbone infection characterized by swollen and bloody gums and thick mucus)
- Severe plaque buildup
- Tooth displacement or broken teeth
Many of these dental problems have overlapping symptoms. Recognizing the symptoms could save your bearded dragon’s life! Call your vet immediately if you notice any of the following:
- Swollen or red gums or swelling near the mouth
- Discolored teeth (brown, black, green, yellow)
- Broken or missing teeth
- Refusal to eat, a decreased appetite, or even weight loss from inability to chew and eat
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing
- Acting tired or stressed
- Bleeding or sores in the mouth or the gums
- Mucus in the mouth
Causes of Dental Problems in Bearded Dragons
According to VetMed, “Lizards like bearded dragons are predisposed to periodontal disease that can progress into severe calculus buildup, gingivitis (inflammation of the gum line), gingival recession, and even deep bone infections.”
There are a number of factors that can cause or increase a bearded dragon’s risk for periodontal disease. The book Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds and Exotic Pets lists out several of these, including:
- Too many soft insects such as worms, which fail to properly clean the teeth
- Poor diet, which can result in nutritional deficiencies
- Poor water quality, which can cause illness and issues with the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off mouth infections
- Improper tank temperatures and lighting, which can cause metabolic bone disease as well as tooth brittleness, decay, and disease
- Stress, especially prolonged stress, which can negatively impact the immune system
- Oral trauma, which can be caused by poor conditions at the pet store, unsafe shipping conditions, or fighting with another dragon (this is one reason we don’t recommend cohabitation)
Knowing these risk factors and doing your best to mitigate them in your dragon’s environment can help keep your pet’s teeth healthy and strong.
How to Keep Your Bearded Dragon’s Teeth Healthy
There are some pretty simple ways you can care for your dragon’s dental health and prevent plaque buildup and disease:
- Schedule an annual teeth cleaning for your bearded dragon during his yearly vet checkup.
- Avoid giving your bearded dragon dried pellet food and freeze-dried insects that can cause buildup on the teeth.
- Follow good husbandry practices and keep your dragon on a healthy, calcium-rich diet filled with greens, veggies, and crunchy live feeder insects (Dubia roaches are great for this!).
- Feed raw, crunchy vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, and radishes. It’s okay to give your dragon cooked veggies on occasion, but avoid doing it regularly because cooked veggies are too soft to help clean the teeth.
- Dust your dragon’s feeder insects or salads with a calcium powder (make sure it also has Vitamin D3, like our Reptile Greens and Calcium powder) to help prevent metabolic bone disease and tooth decay.
- Make sure that your dragon’s terrarium has proper lighting and heating. Without the right basking temperatures and lighting setup, your dragon’s body is unable to properly absorb calcium, leading to lots of health concerns.
- If you have more than one bearded dragon, don’t keep them in the same terrarium! This can lead to constant fights, stress, and aggression, which can lead to damaged teeth (and worse).
Takeaway: Bearded dragons are born with sharp teeth. The crunchy insects and vegetables in their diet keep their teeth clean, so you don’t need to brush your dragon’s teeth unless your vet instructs you to do so. Good husbandry is key to preventing dental disease and keeping your dragon healthy and strong.
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