Teeth Clipping and Grinding

The correct procedures for teeth clipping and grinding are described in no. 18 of the Work Instruction series from BPEX.
calendar icon 19 April 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

Piglets are born with a pair of needle-sharp milk teeth at each of 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 that she may refuse to suckle her piglets. They can sometimes also inflict savage facial wounds on their litter mates leading to infection.

Teeth clipping/grinding should not be the first line of defence against these problems, but where other management options have proven to be ineffective, your veterinary surgeon may recommend blunting the tips of these teeth either by clipping or grinding.

Where clipping or grinding is recommended, a unit specific policy must be developed which identifies which individuals, litters or batches of piglets should have their teeth reduced. This policy must be regularly reviewed (quarterly) and form part of the unit’s Veterinary Health Plan.

Equipment/info required Personal safety
  • Teeth clippers/grinders
  • Surgical disinfectant
  • Dipping container
  • Marker
  • Piglet holding container
  • Waist belt/carrying device
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear plugs (indoors)
  • Gloves
  • Dust mask


Teeth clipping and grinding equipment

Piglets in holding container

Cradle piglet firmly between operator's forearm and body
  • Familiarise yourself with your farm's policy as to which piglets/litters should have their teeth reduced
  • 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
  • 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.

Outline of Work

  • Secure equipment container in a safe and convenient location at first farrowing pen or hut
  • Place piglets in a holding container, either all together or a few at a time
  • Pick up piglet by back leg above hock or around hips
  • Cradle piglet firmly between operator's forearm and body
  • 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
  • Clip the tip of the front needle tooth on the closest side of the upper jaw
  • Take care not to cut gum, lips or tongue and avoid exposing the pulp cavity
  • Clip the tip of the rear tooth of the same pair
  • Repeat process for the two lower teeth (one incisor, one canine) on the same side of the jaw
  • Adjust grip to access other side of piglet’s jaw and repeat steps
  • Check evenness of clipping by rubbing finger over clipped surface; make sure no sharp points of teeth are left, re-clip if necessary
  • Check that the gum is clean
  • If grinding make sure you only blunt the tip rather than grind down a significant portion of tooth
  • Mark piglet and return to holding container or proceed with next piglet task
  • Repeat above steps for remaining piglets, dipping clippers in disinfectant between piglets
  • On completion of litter return clippers to disinfectant dip
  • Complete sow litter record if applicable.

Additional information

  • 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
  • The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 state:
    • The procedure may only be carried out on an animal that is aged not more than seven days (Farm Assurance Schemes have an age limit of three days)
    • The procedure must consist only of the uniform reduction of the corner teeth by either grinding or clipping so as to leave an intact smooth surface
    • The procedure may only be carried out where measures to improve environmental conditions or management systems have first been taken to prevent tail-biting and other vices, but there is still evidence to show that injury to sows’ teats or to other pigs’ ears or tails by biting has occurred.
  • 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 on-going policy of teeth reduction.

Reference documents

  • Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock: Pigs
  • The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007
  • BPEX work instruction 8: Handling and restraining pigs.

April 2012
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