Teeth clipping/grinding guide

Clipping or grinding the teeth of piglets may be recommended by a vet for two main reasons:
  1. Piglets are born with a pair of needle-sharp milk teeth in the front four corners of their jaws. In some circumstances, these teeth can damage the sow’s teats when suckling and make them tender, so she may refuse to suckle

  2. Piglets could bite each other, and wounds can be severe, leading to infection

Considerations

  • Teeth clipping/grinding should only be used as a last resort where other management options have been ineffective. Your vet may recommend blunting the tips of these teeth, either by clipping or grinding
  • Where clipping/grinding is recommended, a unit-specific policy must be developed which identifies which individuals, litters or batches of piglets should have their teeth reduced
  • The unit’s policy must be regularly reviewed (quarterly) and form part of the unit's Veterinary Health Plan (VHP)
  • Using teeth grinders reduces the risk of shattering the teeth
  • In some circumstances, teeth reduction on only the top teeth can provide the same benefits
  • Farm assurance schemes will need you to keep records/photos of any outbreaks of facial scarring, udder damage or reluctance to suckle, in order to justify any ongoing policy of teeth reduction

Use the table below to make sure you have the correct tools for the task:

Equipment required Personal saftey
Teeth clippers/grinders Safety glasses
Surgical disinfectant Earplugs (indoors)
Dipping container Gloves
Marker Dust mask
Piglet-holding container
Waist belt/carrying device

Preparations

Familiarise yourself with your farm’s policy as to which piglets/litters should have their teeth reduced. 

If using clippers:

  • Check that teeth clipper blades are clean and sharp and meet along complete length of blade – replace regularly to ensure teeth are clipped and not crushed
  • Pour fresh surgical disinfectant into container for dipping clippers
  • Place clippers into dipping container and secure lid

If using grinders:

  • Ensure the operator is familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Grinders must be well maintained as they tend to rapidly become less abrasive
  • Load equipment and materials into waist-belt pouches or carrying container and proceed to farrowing area
  • Ensure operator is physically separated from sows

Instructions

1. Secure equipment container in a safe and convenient location at first farrowing pen or hut

2. Place piglets in a holding container, either all together or a few at a time

3. Pick up piglet by back leg above hock or around hips

4. Cradle piglet firmly between operator’s forearm and body

5. Hold piglet’s head still and mouth open using correct grip:

• Insert first finger at side of piglet’s mouth to hold piglet’s mouth open

• Place second and third fingers at angle to side of head

• Place the clippers parallel to the jawbone and gumline

6. Clip the tip of the front needle tooth on the closest side of the upper jaw

7. Take care not to cut gum, lips or tongue and avoid exposing the pulp cavity

8. Clip the tip of the rear tooth of the same pair

9. Repeat process for the two lower teeth (one incisor, one canine) on the same side of the jaw

10. Adjust grip to access other side of piglet’s jaw and repeat steps

11. Check evenness of clipping by rubbing a finger over the clipped surface; make sure no sharp points of teeth are left, re-clip if necessary

12. Check that the gum is clean

13. If grinding, make sure you only blunt the tip rather than grind down a significant portion of tooth

14. Mark piglet and return to holding container or proceed with next piglet task

15. Repeat above steps for remaining piglets, dipping clippers in disinfectant between piglets

16. On completion of litter, return clippers to disinfectant dip

17. Complete sow litter record, if applicable