Piglets are born with a set of eight surprisingly sharp teeth. So sharp are these teeth that they are referred to as 'needle teeth.' After birth, these teeth are often clipped due to the hazards they prevent if left intact. The procedure of clipping needle teeth is quick but does require care to get the optimum benefits from doing so.
The most important reason to clip needle teeth is because of the level and degree of sharpness they bring to the table...the table being the teats in this case. If a piglet with sharp needle teeth attempts to nurse on a sow, a lot of discomfort can be caused to her, which may make her reluctant to allow piglets to nurse. This in turn can be detrimental to piglets, depriving them of nourishment and immunity they so vitally need.
Worse yet, needle teeth can do more than cause discomfort; they can actually puncture the teats of a sow. Once cut open, teats are then susceptible to infection. Infected teats will be painful and it is not healthy for piglets to continue trying to nurse from them. Another way in which needle teeth can be damaging is to other piglets. In the rush to nurse, piglets can cause injuries to the faces of one another. These injuries will then be at risk of Staphylococcus Hyicus which can enter the body and has been known to cause Greasy Pig Disease.
While clipping needle teeth is a common practice, it is still one that must be done carefully. If not done properly, gums or tooth roots can be damaged and may become infected. Because of this, it is important to avoid clipping too close to the gum line. Using a sharp tooth clipper is also necessary because a dull one could cause a tooth to splinter or split down to the root, causing infection and preventing piglets from eating as they should.
If you have plans to cut needle teeth for the first time, be sure to run your plans by a vet and get some tips and tricks. There is no supplement for the wisdom and experience of a vet and any deviation from that advice should be understood to be taken at your own risk. The information that follows in a general guideline but should not be considered a substitution for the information a vet would provide.
When cutting needle teeth, you want to remove the sharp tips. To do this, you should use clean, sharp teeth cutters and have some iodine or alcohol on hand to dip them in between piglets for disinfecting. Be sure that cutter blades are sharp and undamaged as well as thoroughly disinfected before you begin. Having a spare set is wise should your primary pair break or otherwise malfunction.
Before proceeding, secure the sow where she cannot injure you, as some sows are extremely protective and piglets will likely squeal during this process. Collect piglets and pick up your first subject, then press the corners of the mouth to open it. Place clippers around teeth and avoid contact with the tongue, tilting the head so teeth will fall out instead of being swallowed, then snip with clippers parallel in position to the jaw line. Make sure there are no sharp points left then release the piglet.
Teeth should be cut as soon as possible after birth and this can be done within a half hour or less of birth if you wish. The clipping process is advantageous to piglets and their mother in the long run, preventing injuries to the sow from piglets as well as preventing bite injuries amongst piglets. These reasons are of extreme value when you consider the infection that could set in if teeth are not cut and are instead allowed to cut into skin, which gives us all the more reason to learn from a qualified vet how to perform this procedure and conduct it on the piglets in your charge.